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May 6, 2009

Who will get the first e-book into the law school classroom?

Newkindledx Thanks to this post by Jonathan Alder at Volokh, I see from this article that Case Western Reserve University will soon have students in certain classes getting their their textbooks via the Amazon Kindles.   This Wall Street Journal report explains that Amazon "on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers."  Here's more:

Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school's chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.

The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said.  The Kindle's current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as "experimental."  Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

Over at Law School Innovation, we have been talking about Kindle and other e-readers in the law school classroom for almost two years already (see 2007 posts here and here and here).  From the get go, I have never doubt that e-books would eventually take over the law-school classroom.  Because of the extraordinary costs and inconveniences of traditional law school casebooks, the issue in my view has always been, not whether e-books become common, but rather just when and exactly how they will enter the law school classroom.

Cross-posted at LSI

UPDATEThe new Kindle, known as the Kindle DX, can be seen in the picture above, and this report on its launch highlights why e-books are the future and also has a great quote from my former OSU College of Law colleague (who is now a tech rock-star):

Bezos reminded the assembled journalists at this week's launch event that the Amazon Kindle will soon be able to offer "every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

"Eighteen months ago, we launched Kindle, and at the time we had 90,000 books available for Kindle. (We had) 230,000 books just three months ago when we launched Kindle 2," Bezos said. "We've added another 45,000 books in just the last three months. We're actually accelerating."

"The display is 2 and a half times the size of the Kindle 2," added Bezos, adding that with the "Built in PDF reader, you never have to pan, you never have to zoom, you never have to scroll. You just read."   Also, rather niftily (just as with Apple's iPhone), "You just rotate the device and you go to widescreen mode."...

"Textbooks shine with this display," Bezos continued, telling the assembled crowd in NYC that he was "excited to announce today that we've reached an agreement with three leading textbook publishers."

As for students, Bezos confirmed that they already have five universities involved in piloting the Kindle DX this autumn, welcoming in Barbara Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve to give her own opinions on the new electronic textbook.

"We believe this will revolutionize learning," said Snyder. "As a research university, we're bound to test our hypothesis -- will the Kindle change how students work?  We're going to look at these questions.  To all the reporters here, can you imagine what it would be like to craft your story using paper, a typewriter, white out?"

May 6, 2009 at 10:11 AM | Permalink


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Sounds good to me. Are you interested in changing the content, which is from 1250 AD and unlawful in this secular nation? If you are interested in modernity, the lawyer education is ridiculous. It is like going to a monastery to start a new life.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 12:32:17 PM

I tend to agree with the comments the VC thread has generated. The ease of piracy and lack of resalability issues coupled with the low discount factor for ebooks compared to print books will retard adoption regardless of the particular merits of any given ebook device.

Especially when coupled with the high price of the device itself (comperable to a low en laptop without nearly as many features) there is still a long ways to go before this becomes a viable strategy.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 6, 2009 12:35:18 PM

The problem with all of these devices is not hardware but the software. I am one of these people that annotate the heck out of real life books. For me, until I can duplicate everything I do *to* a regular textbook and have it cross referenced and cross indexed, ebook readers will hold no appeal for me.

Posted by: Daniel | May 6, 2009 2:47:31 PM

Sounds great to me, I actually spent some time on Amazon before Winter Semester started trying to find out if enough textbooks were available for the kindle to justify it. Out of Four classes with large textbooks not one book was available. I doubt it will get to OSU before I'm out of there but if it does I'll buy it in a heartbeat to avoid carrying around all the books.

Posted by: AL | May 6, 2009 6:32:25 PM

Many thanks good article on ebooks

Posted by: Ebooks | Oct 12, 2009 11:02:17 AM

Interesting. I have read that many top schools are considering e-book readers for the future and I think it makes very good sense. I have two of my own and a new blog I just started dedicated to writing about them.

Posted by: Cindy | Jan 17, 2010 1:14:51 PM

Oh, by the way, I am a student myself.

Posted by: Cindy | Jan 17, 2010 1:15:30 PM

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