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Taking Paper Out of the Paper Chase

Lawbooks If the pressures of law school are not enough to weigh you down, the books certainly are. It is almost as if that legendarily stern Harvard law professor from the 1973 Oscar-winning movie "The Paper Chase," Charles W. Kingsfield Jr., had designed the books himself merely to add to the burden of being a law student. I mean, could they have made them any heavier if they'd tried?

In this age of e-books, do hardbound law books make sense any more? Two legal scholars think not. They have organized a conference that will convene Sept. 27 in Seattle -- not far from the headquarters of and its popular Kindle e-book reader -- that will explore shredding the weighty paper casebook in favor of digital devices. "It's strange that kids that text message and carry iPods and BlackBerrys in their left hand carry in their right hands these heavy tomes called law school books," said Ronald K.L. Collins, one of the event's organizers and a scholar at the nonprofit First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C. "The left hand is the future and the right hand is the past."

As Andrea James reports on her blog and in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,the conference will draw representatives from law schools and law-book publishers, not to mention e-book device makers including Amazon and Sony Electronics. "It's becoming increasingly clear that the halls of academia are full of opportunity for Seattle-based to market its Kindle e-book reader," James writes. As well they should be.

Organizers estimate that the typical law student lugs around 28 pounds of books costing about $1,000 a semester. A 1L confronts more than 8,700 pages of text, they say. "Law students are burdened by the cost, weight, excess and contents of print casebooks," write Collins and conference co-organizer David Skover of Seattle University School of Law in a recent memo. They hope that will change, but they say the biggest obstacle e-books face is opposition from the Prof. Kingsfields of the world. "The vast majority of my traditional colleagues are wedded to the printed case book," Skover said. "People often teach as they were taught." In other words: We suffered and so shall you.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 12, 2008 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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