I’m finishing up the The Future of Books Related to the Law? series, and I wanted to close by discussing what e-readers could do to the structure of the textbook publishing market. As before, I much welcome your comments, since I’m now editing my article on the subject (it will be coming out as the Foreword to the Michigan Law Review Books Related to the Law issue).
The legal textbook market differs in important ways from the academic book market.
First, most legal textbooks are probably written at least partly for the money. Textbook writing is generally less valued as intellectual activity than is writing original scholarship — less valued by tenure, promotion, and lateral hiring committees, less valued by colleagues, and less valued by the scholar-authors themselves. Many professors do create their own materials, with no payment, just to more effectively teach their own classes. But creating a book that others can use, with material that you might not use in your own class but that other teachers might demand for their classes — and with a Teacher’s Manual that beginning teachers have generally come to expect — is a good deal more work.
At the same time, the endorsement of an authoritative institution is probably less important for a legal textbook. The authors’ names, and the content of the book, will tend to be more important than the fact that West Publishing agreed to publish the book. The people selecting which textbook to use are themselves law professors, and tend to know who the important people in the field are.
Adopters are also, I expect, less likely to rely on textbook publishers’ selection processes as a real assurance of quality. A list of adopters or, for a new book, a list of other teachers who [...]