Is it live, or is it Memorex iPad?

As I was walking through one of the libraries at the firm, I started looking around at all of the books that still remain on the shelves. Some are battered, but most are in pristine condition with spines that would make an audible snapping sound if you were to open them for the first time. Some are primary law, while others are secondary resources dedicated to specific practice groups. Most of them we have through our multiple online subscriptions and databases. Some will soon be packaged as eBooks. Nearly all of them are expensive (costing $100+ per volume or more.) Yet, the rate of which these physical books are going away is not nearly as fast as I predicted ten years ago when I wrote a couple of chapters in a book about the Futures of Law Libraries. It seems some of us are going to be stuck with these for many years to come.

Then a thought hit me… a crazy thought, yes, but a thought. For about the cost of three of these books, I could actually buy a lower-end iPad and place on the shelf. Could I replicate a reporter set and make it easy for the researcher to ‘flip’ through the online version of the material on the iPad? Could it be set up to replicate the ‘feel’ of a book (which is kind of what the new eBook sales pitch wants us to believe)? What if I told the attorney that, just like with the books, if you use this format, we won’t bill the client for any of the usage? Would that do the trick? Could we get attorneys to use some of the online content that they don’t even know exists (cough, cough, IntelliConnect, cough, cough.) Could everywhere we had a law review section, place an iPad connected to HeinOnline there instead? Instead of a library copy of all those personal desk copies, could we have a pre-loaded iPad available in the library instead?

Is there a way to ween lawyers away from all these books that fill up shelf after shelf? Is that even something we really want to do? I’d really like to test out the whole ‘replace books with library iPads’ idea. Just for the simple reason that even if it failed… I’d at least end up with a number of iPads to play with in the end.