In the Legal Technology News this week Evan Koblentz published an article entitled: Apple, Publishers, Open-Source Dictate Law School Textbook Evolution. It is a helpful article about the possibilities for future law school textbooks. It quotes me, as well as John Mayer from CALI.
As Evan suggests, no one really knows what the future will bring, or the timing of it. But it does seem that the era of the traditional law school textbook is on the wane.
As I have said before (in the LS2 book and elsewhere), we often think of new technologies as replacing, rather than as being additive. It makes for good media - "the sky is falling," and all that - but more often, new technologies are additive. We still have records and CDs after all. We will still have books - a far more useful technology than either records or CDs - for a long, long time.
The interesting dynamic in the law school textbook market is found in the combination of forces. We know we need to teach in a different way - not, by and large, the casebook-bound way. So we need new teaching materials at the same time as the technology is maturing to support the delivery of learning material in new and more effective ways. It is in the combination of these forces that interesting things will happen. Will the answer be found in hybrid books (print and online), at least for some time? Will it be found in eBooks? Will it be found in interactive iBooks? Inquiring minds want to know.
But most likely it will be a combination of these, for different learning goals, and used in different ways for different courses, over a long period of time. The market is not disappearing only to replaced with a phoenix rising from the sand. The market is fracturing. Which, of course, presents opportunities for all of us. Publishers, Authors, and Teachers.