E-Books v Paper Books in the Legal Community

Posted on October 3, 2011 02:28 by Chad Godwin

The legal community is beginning to take notice of the trend of moving away from paper and toward eBooks. Attorney Jean P. O'Grady recently blogged on the topic.  Ms. O’Grady concluded that the eBook model is a poor fit for the legal community.  

I am not sure that any type of legal publication needs to converted to an eBook format.  It is rare that I look to a hard copy of any legal authority.  Most law firms provide their attorneys with access to Westlaw or Lexis.  There are also a number of competitors that appear to be gaining a foothold, such as Loislaw, The National Law Library, Quicklaw America, Law.net and Versus Law. Westlaw and Lexis, along with similar on-line models, provide subscription-based services that allow users to include access to the materials that they view most frequently, with pay-per-incident access to the materials that are needed on occasion. These services provide access to virtually all mainstream legal authorities, including treatises and law review articles.  Moreover, they provide powerful search engines to access content in a quick and efficient manner.  Therefore, the majority of the legal community already has access to electronic information.  To the extent that lawyers are seeking portable access to that information, Westlaw created an application called Westlaw Next, which is available on the iPad.  Similarly, Lexis created iPad and iPhone applications that allow its users to access mobile content. It makes more sense to let internet and/or cloud-based services compile and update legal resources than to purchase separate copies that have to be stored locally. I agree with Ms. O’Grady and don’t see a big future for traditional eBooks in the legal industry.
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