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.

  • So what is Lost?
    1. The awe of clients, who inquire "Have you read all those books?"
    2. The Physical display of the majesty of legal organization.
    3. History made palpable, tactile and visual as you observe the oldest pig skin bound volumes, followed by the sturdy buckrum ( not sure of word) bindings of the thirtys to 50's, and in the South the heinous reporter volumes of reconstruction marked on the spine with a prominent black "semicolon".
    4. Lastly the passing of the generation of lawyers before mine. The avid readers of advance sheets who could walk to the shelf after shelf of reporters, identical in appearance, and through some combination of memory, location, subtle binder markings, reach out and pull a volume containing a case on point from twenty years prior.

    Any way passing thoughts from 45 years of practice.

  • One thing that might be lost is the ought that law libraries are warehouses of informations and librarians are not responsive to change.
    Interesting ideas.

  • Anonymous

    The transition of users from print to online is not the problem. Nor is the cost of ipads. The problem is copyright law vs. licensing law. A library owns a book but can only subscribe(rent)to an ebook.

  • I've thought about the own vs. rent issue and (at least at this moment in time) think that it is not as big an issue as I once thought it was. For monographs, it would be a big deal. For treatises or items that get updated periodically, I don't think it is as big a deal because of the fact that if you are not updating an item, it really doesn't matter if you own it or not. The risk factor of having materials on the shelf in a library that are not up-to-date, is one that librarians should consider when evaluating the collection. Most of us have certain treatises on the shelves with those stickers that say "no longer updated." To me, unless there is some historical reason for having those items remain on the shelf, you are setting yourself and your attorneys up with a risk that simply shouldn't be there.

  • I can't tell you how many attorneys have told me that they "love" the feel of a book as s/he reads it.

    Me? If I purchase a book that does not come in electronic format, I rip it apart, scan it to PDF and then recycle the paper. My clients are impressed that I am modern and have all the info I need in my handy-dandy Macbook Air and/or iPad.

  • The key problem lost on those who seek to do away with books is the fact that books cannot be hacked. If you want a true and correct rendition of a code, copy the book. If you need a true and correct rendition of a case, copy the book. Fact is, I know several attorneys, and not a few pro pers, who have downloaded a code, altered a word (such as from must to may) and submitted a motion or brief in an attempt to win a case. Books can't be hacked – but computers (and, in this case, an Ipad) can. Until such time as someone can guarantee 100.1% that the computer is hack proof, I'll stick with the paper version…and no, I'm not being paranoid (better safe than sorry?)

  • mrlibrarian –

    You point is well take. However, if one is going to go to the trouble of hacking a computer to change a statute or case, it should be no surprise that s/he would have the capability and temperament to tamper with a copy of a page out of a book.

    It appears that you are implying that there is some general conspiracy to hack online information retrieval services such as Lexis or Westlaw. In that circumstance, we are in bigger trouble than a change of a holding or phrase as the Black Hawk helicopters are obviously hovering overhead.

    Regardless, it is highly impractical to attach a case book to a motion or brief since most courts now require only electronic filing.

    I would venture to say that the greatest danger in litigation is the lawyer who either fails to Shepardize a case that was overturned in 1965 or intentionally purports that such case is still good law, or in the alternative, cites to a case in an area of the law that is not at issue.

    The bottom line? Any attorney who receives a motion or brief without personally pulling each cited case or statute prior to forming an opinion on the merits of opposing counsel's argument is guilty of malpractice.

  • I don't have problems in shifting to the new generation of getting information through books. But although we are now into more advanced technologies, we have to consider that not everyone are comfortable reading books in an ipad.. There are still those who would choose to flip through a thick law book in the shelf.