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PLOL, or The Slow Death of the Law Review As We Know It:

[I don't think anyone has already posted on this, but apologies if I'm wrong; this seems like the sort of thing VCers would be all over/DavidP]

The directors of many of the leading law libraries (Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Yale, and a number of others) have recently adopted a very important policy statement bearing on the future of law reviews, calling for

". . . all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats."

It's an important development, I believe. It's true, of course, as those of you who have been or are currently in law school know, that law library directors do not have any direct responsibility for law review publication; as a result, the statement is only of significance as an advisory matter, and it can't be implemented without a lot of other things happening and a lot of other people on board. Nonetheless, I think it adds an important voice to the debate about the future of the law review, and another hole in the hull of the law review ship, which has been taking on water for some time now.

The model here is the remarkable (and remarkably successful) Public Library of Science (PLoS), which now publishes 7 different open access journals in biology and medicine. [Full disclosure: I was involved in the formation of PLoS, not through any formal affiliation but because of close ties to one of its founders, my friend and sometime co-author Mike Eisen] Open access in the bio-medical sciences is a big deal, in a way that open access in the legal literature is not; there's a very large amount of money at stake, for one thing, as well as a more direct and obvious link to peoples' health and well-being. Loosening the stranglehold of the print publishers on information in that field is no small thing, and while PLoS hasn't eliminated that stranglehold, it has made serious inroads; it makes me reasonably confident that a true PLoL can't be too far behind. [And no discussion of open access in law should fail to note the many years of hard work by Peter Martin and Tom Bruce, of the Cornell Legal Information Institute, and Mike Carroll of Villanova, in trying to build a true open access platform for law and legal information]

Update: The Open Access Movement is the target of a bill making its way through the House of Representatives; Mike Eisen and Larry Lessig have been leading the charge against it, and I wish them luck - it's nothing short of outrageous that the NIH should be doling out public money for research and NOT making sure that research is available to the public.DavidP

Cornellian (mail):
If one has to have law reviews at all (a debatable question), one can certainly do without the print version. I could do without print versions of case reporters as well; I don't know anyone who uses them.

The only thing I still want in hard copy is treatises.
3.7.2009 9:21am
AJK:
From the link:


Each of the directors who signed the Statement agreed to take it to the dean of their school for discussion and signature.


I hope it wasn't a hard copy!
3.7.2009 9:22am
johnd:
When I read "The Slow Death of the Law Review As We Know It" in the title, I got excited because I thought we'd be talking about a move from student-reviewed to peer-reviewed journals. Alas, no.
3.7.2009 9:30am
www.lyricsvideo.net (mail) (www):
Please visit http://www.lyricsvideo.net for relaxing! Thank you very much!
3.7.2009 9:34am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Given what peer review is in fields with actual data to back up claims I'm not sure what it would add to law review to go that route. So many LR articles are bold assertion and "Here is where the law should go" that I'm not sure really a great deal to add. Most LR articles I've read felt like really long op-ed pieces backed up by tons of references which may or may not even back up the point being made.

At least with the student-edited variety you know up front that the product likely wasn't checked thoroughly.
3.7.2009 9:43am
Steven H (mail):
The transition from print to online-only will be problematic so long as online-only journals are perceived to be less prestigious than print journals. With this dynamic in the background, the reviews run into a classic prisoner's dilemma: it might be in everyone's best interests to cooperate and end print journals, any individual journal is likely to defect to avoid the competitive disadvantage caused by loss of relative prestige.
3.7.2009 9:47am
blabl:
The problem with this is that law reviews get most of their revenue from fees paid by Lexis and Westlaw whenever a user of those databases looks at law review articles. And the rest of their revenue comes from subscriptions.

I still think, though, that law reviews will slowly die as the internet slowly makes them irrelevant.
3.7.2009 10:14am
tarheel:
blabl:

If the revenue they get from Westlaw/Lexis goes mostly to pay for printing costs (which was my experience), I don't really see the problem.

In any case, as long as there are bloviating law professors seeking a better job and law students seeking a clerkship, there will be law reviews.
3.7.2009 11:13am
PaulK:
I find this discouraging because I do not find the move towards electronic-resource reliance to be beneficial. Yes, print reporters are largely obsolete, but as Cornellian indicates above, treatises (and I would add, statutes) are still best read in print format. In fact, my experience is that most people print the cases they want to read after finding them online. Articles are far easier to read in hard copy than on a computer screen, both in terms of formatting and simple eye strain. Electronic resources have made finding and sifting information much easier in many (but not all) ways, but the conclusion simply does not follow that things ought not to be printed.

What everyone heralds as the advent of greater information access for all is really just a new mechanism for controlling information. As we blithely assume that staring at a computer screen is the Best Way to Do Things, have we really considered its effects on us, our work, and our ability to preserve learning? Or have we simply acknowledged it to be innovative and thus dubbed it necessarily good?
3.7.2009 11:38am
Soronel Haetir (mail):

but as Cornellian indicates above, treatises (and I would add, statutes) are still best read in print format.


I would think on-line formats would be far better for statutes. Instant cross-referencing of both definitions and lists of relevant provisions are handy things, rather than having to continually flip back and forth to make sure you are looking at the correct sub-section.

I know that computer programming documentation went through a period where the on-line docs were little more than digitized versions of the print documents, in which case they weren't all that good. But once people realized that the electronic formats offered far more flexibility as to what information gets displayed they became immensly better resources.

If legal materials have not yet reached that point blame the publishers, not the medium.

As an example, when reading an online LR article, every reference should in fact take you at least to the named document if not the exact pin-cited location. Electronic formats give that ability where sticking with print requires that you go locate entirely different books/journals.

One area I do find distressing, electronic publishers have stuck with black on white for traditional reasons rather than technial. Black on white is in fact not the most comfortable to read, but where it's a reasonable choice with paper computer displays are not so limited. If publishers would realize that little tidbit the entire world would be better off.
3.7.2009 11:54am
TerrencePhilip:
The more information freely available online, the better. Eventually law reviews and case reporters will be online-only affairs, I would think.
3.7.2009 12:15pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
TerrencePhilip:

The questionable point is the relationship between law reviews and information.
3.7.2009 12:26pm
Steve:
I still have that nice bound copy on my shelf of the law review volume where I served on the editorial board. I would hate to see future generations of law students deprived of that valuable souvenir!
3.7.2009 12:28pm
NoNon (mail):
These library directors should ask newspapers how well open-content models have worked for them. There might be value in ceasing print publication, but that doesn't mean the content should be freely given away.

My limited peek at the books of a Law Review suggested it generated twice as much revenue through licensing arrangements as it did through print subscriptions.

As an aside, I know of at least one school's faculty who were not pleased that the reputation of their institution was used to lend legitimacy to this statement.
3.7.2009 12:47pm
josil (mail):
PLoS disseminates peer-reviewed research results for medicine, genetics, and related fields. This provides a promising location for the latest in test results and findings. While sympathetic to opening up the gates of information, I'm not sure that law reviews are the best foundation for this.
3.7.2009 1:27pm
Jay:
Soronel-
The problem I have with statutes on Westlaw is that, in practice, you have to "flip back and forth" in a far more annoying fashion than with hard copy statutes. In a book, you can hold your finger in one spot and browse through the next few code sections to see what's relevant (it's amazing how often an initial reference to s. 111 leads you to find that something far more precisely on point is actually at s. 114). Online, you have to keep cycling through, loading and reloading pages, which are often larded down with annotations so that they take 30 seconds or more to fully load. Of course, WL has its uses, such as checking for cases in a particular jurisdiction that have cited your statute, etc. But I find hard copies of the USC far more useful than bound volumes of F.3d.
3.7.2009 1:44pm
ArthurKirkland:
During law school, I thought little of law reviews. After a year devoted to pummelling students into intellectual submission, dismantling and disparaging their (poorly formed) preconceptions and generally treating them as the academic equivalent of fraternity pledges, the system turns on a dime and demands those students produce insightful, comprehensive analyses of novel, complex legal issues, with largely predictable results. Meanwhile, students with modest writing and negligible editing skills are to be recognized as authorities solely because they are a lap or two ahead in the curriculum. After about two weeks of reading lame Notes, finding parallel cites for lazy third-years and marveling at the lack of familiarity with standard English -- let alone their lack of qualifications to assess the prickly points along the legal frontier -- among the aggressively confident editors, I quit. (I coasted as a staff member during my third year, purely for the credential.)

I therefore don't know who pays for law reviews, or why. I read (parts of) a dozen or so articles each year, largely for personal reasons such as curiosity; I have found law reviews to be irrelevant to most legal practice. I find them to be a complicated mix of factors good (altruism, the pursuit of knowledge, preparation of students, dissemination of ideas) and suspect (ambition, renting of credibility, disguised motives, manipulation by commercial or ideological forces), but for the most part they are less important than they are thought to be, to the extent they are thought of at all.

I also don't know who should subsidize law reviews, or whether those subsidies should continue. Print editions of newspapers -- at least as valuable as law reviews, in my eyes -- appear to confront withering economic pressures. Electronic editions of newspapers are an uncertain economic proposition. Law reviews will likely follow a similar course, unless someone arranges a subsidy for reasons I can not apprehend.

Information should be free (as in free to seek truth and reach who wish to be informed, not free of charge), and most sensible systems of information dissemination require editors. The traditional law review system neither attempted nor succeeded with respect to providing the best editors. Change seems at least as likely to improve a flawed system as to damage it.
3.7.2009 2:13pm
Working for the Man (mail):
Soronel Haetir said,
Black on white is in fact not the most comfortable to read


What exactly is the most comfortable to read? I use negative black and white on text documents sometimes when I have trouble reading, but I've never read anything that actually stated the what colors were best.

I've seen tools like this
http://www.accesskeys.org/tools/color-contrast.html
but they only tell you how readable it is, not what the best colors are.


Speaking of evaluation tools...
http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http://www.volokh.com

Not looking good.
3.7.2009 2:49pm
George Mocsary:
There is just nothing like reading bound paper material. This is why e-books haven't, and I'll bet will never, take off. I feel the same way about Amazon's new endeavors too. It's just silly. Who wants to curl up in bed with a laptop?
3.7.2009 2:56pm
Kanchou (www):
"My limited peek at the books of a Law Review suggested it generated twice as much revenue through licensing arrangements as it did through print subscriptions."

That may or may not be true is the dividing line between consumer and producer is very clear. But since law school faculty/students are both consumer and producer of the law reviews, open access make sense.

How much are the law school libraries paying to Wexis/HeinOnline for their student/faculty/staff to access law reviews other than their own? What's the ratio to the licensing income? Sounds to me like they ran the number and figures everybody(maybe except Thomson Reuters/Reed Elsevier) is better off with the open access system.

P.S.: I haven't check all their cv, but seems like half of them used to work for late Roy M. Mersky.
3.7.2009 3:13pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Jay,

Again, I would blame the publisher. With the programming documentation I am more familiar with many of those elements would pop up over the current text so there would be no need to flip back and forth between pages unless you needed something deeper from the cited section.

Granted, it took programming documentation quite a long while (15 years or so would be a reasonable guess) to move from mere digitized copies to something that is way more useful than the printed versions, but it did happen. It eventually reached the point that the documentation I am thinking of is no longer even distributed in book form.

If WestLaw or Lexus haven't kept up with the technological capabilities about all I can suggest is that people petition them to get their act together.

---

For the color claim, I've seen groups alternatively claim that black on very light blue causes the least strain while maintaining sensitivity. Yellow on black seems to be much more agreed upon os the highest contrast combination, but many people don't like looking at that for extended periods.

The nice thing about electronic media however is that the user should be able to select their own color scheme. That is actually one thing I dislike about PDF, it is driven so much by the publisher's choices rather than the user's. HTML though isn't very good for layout on physical pages which is much more PDF's target.
3.7.2009 3:26pm
Brian Mac:

Articles are far easier to read in hard copy than on a computer screen, both in terms of formatting and simple eye strain.

If only there was some kind of device that let people transfer information from a computer screen to paper format, we'd all be winners from this move.
3.7.2009 3:31pm
guest:
It may also be a generational difference...I ask anyone who has posted negatively regarding reading/referencing/using LR/treatises/statutes online one question: how old are you?
It's a fair question. Having only ever known law school researching to be associated with Westlaw and Lexis access (meaning I'm currently in law school), I have no problem reading things online. In fact I often wonder what all those nice looking leather-bound books in the library are really doing there other than collecting dust, since no law student actually ever goes and uses them these days. The library is now simply a quiet place with tables and internet access; comparatively no different than Starbucks, provided you don't sit next to the giggling 16 year olds fresh from a prom committee meeting or the mom juggling 2 cafe lattes and a crying 3 year old...

However, I will admit that while I really only research online, I almost invariably print out all resources. I want to have hard copies available to mark-up and you can't go highlighting your computer screen effectively...at least not without handi-wipes available. But in terms of its impact on the environment (if that is the reason for attempting to get away from paper copies of journals/treatises/statutes), the only difference is the existence of the original hard-copy sitting on the shelves collecting dust. An original is going to need to exist in some format so that we can all, when needed, have our own clean copy to red-pen and annotate; whether that exists in paper or online, I hardly see the real difference except for the ever-expanding shelves that no one ventures into.

And finally, to the commenter who wanted hard copies because looking at statutes online required clicking back and forth between pages, I would respond that opening multiple windows containing multiple sources solves the load time problems. Right click on the link "open in new tab"...ta da...
3.7.2009 4:25pm
Randy R. (mail):
"How much are the law school libraries paying to Wexis/HeinOnline for their student/faculty/staff to access law reviews other than their own? What's the ratio to the licensing income? Sounds to me like they ran the number and figures everybody(maybe except Thomson Reuters/Reed Elsevier) is better off with the open access system."

A large part of any law library's budget goes to subscriptions. If LW's went online, that would be significant savings. The only ones who are the losers are the publishers, but I frankly don't care about them,any more than I cared for the buggy whips manufacturers a hundred years ago.

It's just simple economics: Today, if you want access to Podunk U Law Review, you have to purchase a copy, get a subscription. or pay Lexis/Westlaw for access. So that severly limits those who can access it.

But it Podunk U put their LW online for free, everyone would be able to read it. If all LW's were online, then libraries could find significant savings in not having to pay for all these copies that sit unread on their shelves, and they save the money of maintenence and adding more space to accomodate.

Of course, what that really means is that the less desirable LW s will go on line so that they can claim that access to their drivel is now global. But the ones in demand, such as Harvard, will refuse to go online, or if they do, charge directly for the access, In either case, they maintain the income.

In other words, people and institutions will continue to pay for what they believe has value, and taxpayers and students don't have to pay (through library fees) for that which has little or no value.
3.7.2009 5:04pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
In regard to notes and such, I just want to point out that many formats allow electronic annotation. If the publishers put some work into it, it likely wouldn't be that hard to add to their online content whether they use a browser or a special purpose application.

One benefit I can then see if being able to extract all the notes you've taken and save them seperately rather than having to look through the sheets you've manually marked. And those extracted notes can maintain their link back to the relevant portion of text.
3.7.2009 5:12pm
Bama 1L:
I could do without print versions of case reporters as well; I don't know anyone who uses them.

Hey, plenty of smaller-scale practitioners (have clients who) can't afford Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis. Those bound state reporters and codes in their phonebook portraits aren't just for show.

My limited peek at the books of a Law Review suggested it generated twice as much revenue through licensing arrangements as it did through print subscriptions.

But what do law reviews spend money on? What would they spend money on if they didn't have to produce print volumes?

I think the problem is that with academic publishing generally: if it's not in print, it's very hard to convince the department chair and above to consider it "real scholarship" that counts toward tenure. In theory the impetus toward electronic publishing should be greater, and the transition easier, in the humanities, where there is no army of students to do the work of producing the journals and library budgets are even more restricted. But it has not worked out that way at all; scholars are still hostages to the economic realities facing academic presses who produce books for which there is no market.
3.7.2009 5:27pm
A Law Dawg:
<blockquote>The problem I have with statutes on Westlaw is that, in practice, you have to "flip back and forth" in a far more annoying fashion than with hard copy statutes. In a book, you can hold your finger in one spot and browse through the next few code sections to see what's relevant (it's amazing how often an initial reference to s. 111 leads you to find that something far more precisely on point is actually at s. 114). Online, you have to keep cycling through, loading and reloading pages, which are often larded down with annotations so that they take 30 seconds or more to fully load.
</blockquote>

Try using tabbed browsing. It makes this a snap.
3.7.2009 6:08pm
theobromophile (www):
What I don't understand is why you would have to totally eliminate a print version, simply because you put the information online as well. You might charge more for the print (due to the economics of scale), but the print-lovers would still have their way.

In theory, you can always print something online, but:
1) it's often tough to print double-sided (thus wasting much more paper than professionally published materials); and
2) the print format is often rather awkward. Footnotes are not where they should be; Lexis and Westlaw often add in a lot of extraneous pages, etc.

The largest downside to publication would be the difficulty in quick, accurate searching and cross-referencing. The upside would not come directly from online publication, but would come from a system that allows feedback from legal professionals. Law students, as per above, are ill-equipped to understand the intricacies of esoteric areas of law, but other practitioners and legal scholars could comment, leave feedback, and respond (via links to their own work, either in other law reviews or on SSRN). Perhaps this would be more of an advantage for specialty journals, but peer review (or just peer feedback) may improve their quality (and thus prestige).
3.7.2009 7:32pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
A large part of any law library's budget goes to subscriptions. If LW's went online, that would be significant savings. The only ones who are the losers are the publishers, but I frankly don't care about them,any more than I cared for the buggy whips manufacturers a hundred years ago.
Let me suggest that one of the other losers would be the ABA and its power through law school accreditation. One of its criteria for accreditation at least used to be a law school's library. This is one of the biggest fixed costs for running a law school, and administrations have been whining for years about this.

After all, if everything is online, even if it is through Lexis and WestLaw, then why bother with the dead tree versions, given the costs involved. Besides Lexis/WestLaw subscriptions are much more variable costs than a library is (assuming that they charge LS students - they didn't when I was in LS, since they wanted us trained on their product for when we would be out in the real world paying for it).
3.7.2009 7:45pm
Bama 1L:
theo, who are these print-lovers who will pay top dollar? My law review would love to sign them up as subscribers.
3.7.2009 7:48pm
albert:
It may also be a generational difference...I ask anyone who has posted negatively regarding reading/referencing/using LR/treatises/statutes online one question: how old are you?
It's a fair question. Having only ever known law school researching to be associated with Westlaw and Lexis access (meaning I'm currently in law school), I have no problem reading things online. In fact I often wonder what all those nice looking leather-bound books in the library are really doing there other than collecting dust, since no law student actually ever goes and uses them these days. The library is now simply a quiet place with tables and internet access; comparatively no different than Starbucks, provided you don't sit next to the giggling 16 year olds fresh from a prom committee meeting or the mom juggling 2 cafe lattes and a crying 3 year old...

However, I will admit that while I really only research online, I almost invariably print out all resources. I want to have hard copies available to mark-up and you can't go highlighting your computer screen effectively...at least not without handi-wipes available. But in terms of its impact on the environment (if that is the reason for attempting to get away from paper copies of journals/treatises/statutes), the only difference is the existence of the original hard-copy sitting on the shelves collecting dust. An original is going to need to exist in some format so that we can all, when needed, have our own clean copy to red-pen and annotate; whether that exists in paper or online, I hardly see the real difference except for the ever-expanding shelves that no one ventures into.

And finally, to the commenter who wanted hard copies because looking at statutes online required clicking back and forth between pages, I would respond that opening multiple windows containing multiple sources solves the load time problems. Right click on the link "open in new tab"...ta da...


I am a 38-year-old litigator at a small firm, with a pretty heavy motions/trial practice. My firm doesn't have case reporters. We do have a few form books and paper books of the state's rules of civil procedure, which I do find sometimes useful.

I strongly agree that most of this is generational and/or the way you learn. Even when I research cases online, it's very rare that I have to print one out to read it further. I only do this if I'm grappling with something complex and unfamiliar. My friends at big firms tell me that they still maintain libraries, and often update the Bender-type books, at great expense- solely because of the older attorneys. Incredibly, some of the midsize firms still are not putting all their file documents on PDF, but the day when almost all a lawyer's files are electronic- or at least the day when they are almost 100% backed up to PDF- is coming rapidly.

Having said all this I will tell you that as a font person, I really like the fonts and layout of the West reporters. To that end, I wish that Westlaw would make it so you could alter the fonts when reading from their site. -Or, that you could not have to pay extra to see the West Reporter Image. However that deficiency is easily fixed by cut-and-pasting what I'm reading into my word processor, where I can manipulate the fonts all I want. Still, it's a mess to deal with when an opinion has a lot of footnotes (yet another reason to hate footnotes).

Lastly, on the topic of annotated statutes: West's annotated statute service is awesome for state statutes. For the federal statutes, it is not so good in my opinion, in either paper format or electronic. There are just too many cases out there, and sometimes what you need will not be in the annotations. Most of the time, when interpreting a federal statute you will get better results searching in caselaw for cases that deal with your statute; in the case of something like 1983, you may need to go grab a book in a *gasp* library. Which leads me back to books- for secondary materials such as treatises and the like, the books are great. I used to live just a few blocks from a law school, and when I had a particularly difficult issue it was convenient to head there on my way home to use their library. Now it's much more of a drive- oh well.
3.7.2009 7:48pm
Bama 1L:
Let me suggest that one of the other losers would be the ABA and its power through law school accreditation. One of its criteria for accreditation at least used to be a law school's library. This is one of the biggest fixed costs for running a law school, and administrations have been whining for years about this.

For many schools, U.S. News ranking is a much larger concern than mere ABA accreditation. The U.S. News factors include expenditures per student on academics including library (0.0975) and volumes in the library (0.0075), so climber deans will always have reason to spend more on books.
3.7.2009 7:59pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I will also note that PDF makes printing double sides easy so long as you have access to the printer itself. Not so easy if you have to go through a print server, though in that case their may be tray options that will automate the process.

I used to use acrobat to print 4 pages per sheet (two each front and back) and it wasn't a particularly painful process. Collating after te print run took more time than the setup effort and I ended up with a convvenient sized book I could then either ring bind or just staple.

PDF's great power is that you can actually get what the publisher expects, but that's also the downside because the format is fixed at the user end.
3.7.2009 8:38pm
Cornellian (mail):
I'm curious as to how much money those publishers contributed to Conyers. I'd like to know the going rate for a Congressman these days.
3.7.2009 9:46pm
reasonsformoving:
I think it's worth noting that PLOS charges $2,500 to publish an article. That cost is borne by the authors and makes the relationship between author and publisher somewhat compromised IMHO.

Put it this way, when an author puts $2500 on the table, it's hard for an editor to turn it down.
3.7.2009 9:48pm
Jay:
I take everyone's point about the benefits of tabbed browsing, but I still would rather grab the book than juggle 8 tabs at once. I am particularly thinking about the kind of complicated statutory schemes I dealt with a lot while clerking, like the INA or LHWCA. These statutes have multiple sequential sections that just don't make that much sense when viewed in isolation. Admittedly, that sort of statute is probably less common in a garden variety lit practice, unless you're doing tax or bankruptcy.
3.7.2009 10:12pm
Randy R. (mail):
"One of its criteria for accreditation at least used to be a law school's library. "

If everything eventually goes online, then the law school should be rated on the quality of its computers.
3.7.2009 11:52pm
Curt Fischer:
Jay - You are right; tabs aren't ideal. What you need is a multiple monitor setup. I never knew how useful it was to be able to look back forth between two pages of information without clicking or scrolling.

I finally was inspired to try it from the late Randy Pausch's great time management lecture.
3.8.2009 12:00am
James Gibson (mail):
So there is hope I can finally get PDF copies of the Briefs filed for the 1918 Supreme Court Case on the legality of Selective Service.
3.8.2009 12:19am
Kanchou (www):
"After all, if everything is online, even if it is through Lexis and WestLaw, then why bother with the dead tree versions, given the costs involved."

Because it's much cheaper to use it in print?

American Lawyer Annual Law (Firm) Library Survey, 2006

"And sometimes it is the electronic publishers themselves who have hindered the transition to electronic research, through pricing models that librarians say often make no financial sense for the firms. "It's largely a myth that something available electronically will be less costly," says Bridget Dacres, director of library and research services at Preston Gates &Ellis.

Specialty publications -- journals on venture capital, finance, even pesticides -- have become a particular problem. "In the old days, you'd get a newsletter for $1,500, send it around to five people on a wait list and then put it on a shelf," says Martin. "Now you'll pay $1,800 for the first person, then maybe $600 for each of the others. Your $1,500 newsletter is suddenly $4,200." Instead of weaning attorneys off books, Martin found herself in the bizarre position of weaning them off the online version. "We were paying $30,000 for one title, the Daily Report for Executives," she says. "After four years, the publisher said we had to pay by the user. I sent out a notice, asking people if they really wanted to receive it, [because] it costs $1,400 per person. Once they saw that number, we were able to cut a lot of people out."

The pricing models, which librarians say can vary widely by vendor, and even by product, are forcing firms to embrace electronic research selectively. "There are times when I think the prices are ridiculously high, so I stay away," says Mary Ames, head librarian at Edwards Angell Palmer &Dodge. One subscription that cost the firm $10,000 in print would have cost $50,000 electronically. The firm stuck with paper."
3.8.2009 3:49am
PersonFromPorlock:
Isn't it possible that the low cost of starting entirely new journals will encourage a blog-like competition of 'new' with 'old' media, with much of the 'new' journals' work being done by volunteers? It isn't hard to imagine credentials like 'editor of journal x' or 'referee for journal y' or 'published in journal z' as being positives for a tenure committee; or even that some professionals might contribute work for love of their field, or just to get their two cents in.

If so, then we've already seen the result with newspapers: what the 'old' publishers want to do is largely irrelevant. They will either conform to the lower-cost practices of the new journals, or founder.
3.8.2009 9:56am
nyejm (mail) (www):
There already <i>is</i> a PLoL -- <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.plol.org">http://www.plol.org</a>
3.8.2009 6:17pm
prison rodeo (mail):
"Who wants to curl up in bed with a laptop?"

Anyone under 40 (I'm doing it right now...).

Which means, everyone in 40 years.
3.8.2009 7:58pm
Splunge:
Anyone under 40...Which means, everyone in 40 years.

A suprisingly frequent logical error. As if people don't change over time, and as if the year in which you were born matters more than the number of years since you were born. Is this a common mistake made by young people, I wonder? I'll never change, become like my parents, et cetera?
3.9.2009 1:13am
Brjny:
Splunge-

If we're talking about social mores or attitude toward raising children, you might have a valid point.

People do not change their attitudes toward technology as they age. Not too many 50 year olds decide to eschew television as they age to listen to Hop-along Cassidy like their parents did.

I'll echo the statements above about how much of this consternation seems to come from the fact that older people don't like/don't utilize technology as effectively as younger people. Lexis/westlaw access to law reviews allows anyone to get a basic grasp of an issue in half an hour or less - the same cannot be said of print materials.
3.9.2009 3:18am
A.C.:
Re: charges for using PLOS, I understand that many publications in the sciences have a per-page charge for authors. This may be why the articles are so short, in which case I think law reviews should look into it.

But if law reviews really are dying a slow death, can't we just shoot them and put them out of their misery? I hated mine more than I have hated anything else before or since, and I've never made use of anyone else's except when writing my papers in law school.

As for paper vs. electronic generally, I like paper and lots of sticky tabs from 3M for the things I use most often and maintain exclusive control over. (I can't use my system of tabs and annotations on shared resources.) I strongly prefer searchable electronic formats for everything else.

If an electronic file becomes something I use a lot, I have no problem printing it out and then subjecting it to my sticky-tab system. I consider this the equivalent of photocopying something from a shared library so that I have my own copy to scribble on. But as far as manipulating the communal resource, I'd rather go electronic.

Age = Pong came out when I was the right age to be intrigued by it. Got my first computer the year after I finished college, and never looked back. Not sure I understand the whole Facebook thing, though.
3.9.2009 11:55am
Wahoowa:
A small complaint, but it's not really the "directors of many of the leading law libraries." It would be better to say "the directors of libraries at many of the country's leading law schools." Harvard certainly qualifies in both of those statements, but many of the other libraries on that list are, at best, marginal members of the "leading law library" club.
3.9.2009 1:16pm
Randy R. (mail):
AC: "But if law reviews really are dying a slow death, can't we just shoot them and put them out of their misery? "

No, because too much is at stake. The students need law review for their resumes, and the professors need to publish somewhere. The LRs exist only for this limited group of people.

It's like putting on a play -- you have people who have to act, and people who have to learn how to produce a play. So they get together and produce a play that is thoroughly unwatchable, and no audiences appear, but it's frightfully expensive.
3.10.2009 10:33am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
David Post posted in the opening post,
. . .law library directors do not have any direct responsibility for law review publication; as a result, the statement is only of significance as an advisory matter, and it can't be implemented without a lot of other things happening and a lot of other people on board.

The statement noted, "It has also been signed by the chief information officers at top U.S. law schools." Also, head law librarians at the top law schools must have a lot of clout on anything related to publications in the field of law.

Open access in the bio-medical sciences is a big deal, in a way that open access in the legal literature is not;

I think you are underestimating the importance of law reviews -- the Harvard Law Review alone was cited 4410 times by federal court opinions alone in the decade 1970-79 alone, though the frequency of citation of law review articles by court opinions appears to have declined in recent years.

The Durham statement by the law librarians says nothing about whether the online open-access law articles should be peer-reviewed. The PLoS online journals are peer-reviewed, according to the PLoS website. The dirty little secret about law journals is that most are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are just student-reviewed! The irony here is that law articles tend to benefit more from peer review than articles in other scholarly fields, because everything is out in the open in the law and can be easily checked, whereas, for example, it may be impossible to repeat a scientific experiment to verify the reported results.
3.10.2009 5:29pm

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