On Reflection, Maybe I Was A Bit Naive....
In the comments to my entry about how useful the Sony Reader electronic book would be for law students, Anon made a good point:
There's certainly a lot to be said for the new technology. Digitized texts save paper (read--fewer trees we have to chop down in the rain forests), spare our backs (read--fewer visits to the chiropractor), and bless us with shorter lines (read--fewer dirty looks from underpaid law school book store register clerks with watch timers set to ring at 5 p.m., the start of favorite bar's happy hour).
I wonder, though, whether these texts will quickly make the transition to paperless, digital format. Digital content is great for the user, but problems of piracy and copyright infringement loom large for the publisher and copyright holder. I suppose if the piracy protection were ironclad, we would be OK, but it seems that almost as quickly as new anti-piracy schemes are cooked up, ways to overcome the protections are crafted. At least if I were the publisher, all of this would make me think twice before digitizing all or part of casebook content.
To which I now feel I might have been overoptimistic in replying:
If I recall correctly from looking at the Japanese model, there's some reasonably robust anti-copying software involved. But I think law school textbooks would have even better protection. Each law student is told when we start school that our personal ethical record will eventually form part of our bar acceptance. Given the high price of tuition and the three years of lost wages, would a student really make illegal copies of textbooks if they felt it might prevent them from passing the bar?
I'm pretty certain that worries about bar passage would have some effect on illegally pirating textbooks. But taking a look at what I've spent on books over the last few years, I think I might be a trifle . . . shortsighted in my response above. Any thoughts from other students?