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Law eBooks are not pBooks: Sharing, Privacy, and Cost


Lawyers, law firms, and law libraries have historically shared books with each other. We now have some important eBook purchsing, borrowing, lending, and licensing issues to catch up on.

This will cost time and money to learn, prepare, monitor, and audit.

At the very least you will need the right eReader, the right App, and the right license.

(You will also need to accept the fact that each of those will change next week, and the week after, and the week after that.)

Bar associations may have useful information for their members in the form of online publications or training programs.

In the professional law librarian community, the AALL Consumer Advocacy Caucus and the Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV) work hard to keep law librarians ahead of the eBook curve and to remind legal publishers about good business practices. Publishing is a tough business. (See the Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers.)

So, before you toss out that pBook and purchase that eBook, there is much to consider, so make sure you read those eLicenses and consider these issues:

  1. Will individual use of the eBook be tracked? (Which sections you read, how long you read, what eNotes you take, etc.)
  2. Will the eBook expire or disappear at the end of some set or arbitrary time period or will the eBook “purchased” belong to the buyer in perpetuity?
  3. Will the purchase of a single-user licensing affect the ability of lawyers within a law firm to share that eBook or the law library to participate in interlibrary loan programs with other law firms or law libraries? (That is, will you be able to borrow or lend that eBook?)
  4. Do lawyers and libraries need specific eReaders or apps for the publisher’s eBooks? (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, Tablet, ePhone, oh my)
  5. Will the terms of eLicenses be easy to understand? (Or will the lawyer need a lawyer?)
  6. Will the frequency of updates be regular and easy to ascertain (and not too costly)?
  7. Will the publisher provide training tutorials for new users?
  8. What kinds of price confidentiality restrictions will accompany the purchase of an eBook license?
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