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September 19, 2012

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Colin Miller

I have done three chapters for the eLangdell Project (http://elangdell.cali.org/) for Evidence, with three more soon to be published. Here are some of the benefits I see of doing an e-casebook:

1. Hyperlinks! What's the over/under on percentage of students who actually look up note cases and definitions of terms appearing in a casebook that they don't understand? With an e-casebook, you can easily include hyperlinks to court opinions, legal dictionaries, etc. I like to think that the ease of a click-through increases the chances that a student will go the extra yard.

2. I can also hyperlink to my blog, which allows me to synch up my blog and my e-chapters.

3. At least with the eLangdell Project, the chapters are open source. If someone wants to use a chapter but not all of the chapter, he or she can simply download the chapter in Word and make the necessary additions and subtractions. He or she can also reorder the material in the chapter rather than having students read things out of order. What this also means is that when old material become outdated and/or new material becomes necessary, I can easily make contemporaneous revisions at the eLangdell site to the original document rather than having to issue annual supplements.

4. With an e-casebook, you can deliver the same content to students at a fraction of the cost of a regular casebook or at no cost. And if students want an actual physical casebook, it is pretty easy to give the e-casebook to a copy shop to create a "course packet."

5. With a traditional casebook, a student might remember something about a case (e.g., it was the case with the hypnotically refreshed testimony) but not remember where it is in the casebook. With an e-casebook, the FIND function makes it easier to track down these needles in the haystack. It also allows for students to directly copy and paste from their e-casebook to their outlines, case briefs, etc.

Anon

How do people who use e-textbooks deal with open book exams and examSoft (or other similar exam taking software) that locks out the rest of your computer, including your e-textbook?

Jim Milles

I just met with a Wolters Kluwer rep yesterday and I'm quite excited about trying the smart ebooks next semester. One red flag though: I just tried to access the review copy of the casebook I'm using this semester, only to find that www.aspenlaw.com is down, making the book inaccessible. Students can go ballistic over that sort of thing.

Ralph D. Clifford

I don't have any law school-level experience to add, but my son uses e-books in his high school. I would say that the books are unavailable when he wants them about once every other week.

Beth Haas

Some e-books are "smarter" than others. The "Smart-e" version of the text I assign for Professional Responsibility (a Wolters Kluwer publication), unfortunately, contains no hyperlinks to the Model Rules and very few links to cases or other materials. Accordingly, here is the note I include in my syllabus where I list the textbook information: "This Text is now available in hardcopy or the publisher’s “Smart-e” version, which is a web-based version of the text. Although you are permitted to purchase either, at this time I cannot endorse the “Smart-e” version for two reasons. First, it simply is not much “smarter” than the hardcopy or a .pdf. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you may not be able to access it during the exam because of the Exam4 software." I've spoken at length to the publisher's e-book team about the deficiencies and the problems presented by law school exam software and they agree that this particular publication and many others are not quite up to par. I am hopeful that we will see improvements in this area in the next generation of publications.

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