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Has the time come for eCasebooks?

The "evolution" of the law school casebookBack when I was a 1L (1998), I dreamed of ditching my 10-pound, overpriced casebooks and finally switching to e-text. It would be a beautiful thing: cheaper, easier-to-use, and integrated with the way law students study. Pursuing this idea led me entirely elsewhere, but in retrospect, the technology was simply not there nine years ago to support an ebook that would beat the features of traditional paper.

If CALI has anything to say about it, the time has finally come for e-casebooks.

At the 17th annual convent for law school computing, CALI hosted a discussion about what’s needed in an e-casebook, looking at it not just from a technological but from a professors’ and students’ point of view. One interesting set of data presented showed that students (or at least, respondents to an email survey at the University of Nebraska College of Law) could very well have as many reservataions about ebooks as their professors — not surprisingly, around usability.

I’m fairly confident that technology will eventually bring e-text up to the level of usability as paper. The question is whether the network behind e-texts will adequately harness the power of community that becomes possible when casebooks go digital. Can these casebooks enhance the way classes and study groups learn? What can Web 2.0 concepts do for student learning?

Perhaps the most exciting possibility enabled by e-casebooks is the creation of a legal commons where professors can share teaching resources with each other in a low-cost, copyright-resolved manner. E-casebooks should be a benefit to professors at least as much as they would be for students.

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