Amazon’s Kindle And Law Books – Soon The MPEP?

by Brian Fletcher on July 10, 2009

The Wall Stree Journal reported today that the Practising Law Institute (PLI) is making its books available for sale on Inc.’s Kindle, underscoring the widening appeal of the digital reader.

The discounts off print prices for digital works from the Practising Law Institute will be much smaller than those typical of Kindle best-sellers.

The Kindle edition of thriller writer Lee Child’s new novel, “Gone Tomorrow,” for example, costs $9.99, a 63% discount from its $27 hardcover price.  By contrast, the PLI titles and later supplements will be sold at only a 20% discount from the print edition.

Amazon will sell continuing education legal books from the Practising Law Institute on Kindle, such as a three-volume set on art law.  The three-volume “Art Law,” by Ralph E. Lerner and Judith Bresler, carries a Kindle price of $220 instead of the $275 print list price, while the Kindle edition of “Copyright Law: A Practitioner’s Guide,” by Bruce P. Keller and Jeffrey P. Cunard, is priced at $236, a 20% discount from the $295 print price.

“There are a lot of practical reasons to believe that the digital market may well be more profitable for publishers of legal, medical and educational texts,” said Andrew Frank, a vice president at market-research firm Gartner Inc.  “Since these texts are reference material, the ability to index them and set up bookmarks, which you can do easily with the Kindle, will save time and money for users.”

PLI said 67 of its 90 titles are now available in the Kindle format. “Our average book is easily over 1,000 pages, and a number are multivolume sets, so you’re talking about a lot of information,” said William Cubberley, who oversees the PLI’s publishing program.  “You’ll be able to carry an entire law library on your Kindle.”  The PLI’s publishing operations reaped $10 million in revenue last year.

Traditionally, lawyers buy PLI books whose binders allow them to insert new material and discard the old. PLI customers typically receive annual supplements priced at $125.  With the Kindle, users will be able to delete old versions of their texts and substitute new books. The digital editions are also searchable.

Arthur Klebanoff, a New York literary agent who advised the PLI during its talks with Amazon, noted that many PLI titles are extensively footnoted, with the information often provided at the end of each chapter. The Kindle e-books treat the footnote numbers as “links,” enabling a reader to toggle between text and footnote.

Would appreciate comments here from anyone who has been using a Kindle or similar reader in the practice of law, particulary patent and IP law. Do you have any best practices for using such a reader?


Dave! July 13, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Best practice: don’t. At least, not yet.

I bought a Kindle 2, for personal and professional use. As a personal (fiction, some non-fiction) reader, I think it’s awesome. I love it. I read more and I buy more books.

As a “professional” reader, it’s got a long way to go. The footnote as “links” feature is great for pieces where you really don’t care about the references, but when you do (as I do in much legal reading) toggling back and forth is a royal pain and slows reading *way* down. I’d rather just have them at the bottom of the page, thank you.

It’s also slow for page turning and “flipping” (another thing I frequently do when reading for work) is dreadful. You cannot easily and *quickly* flip back to another section like you can with a thumb stuck between pages.

Also, for docs which are not already available for the Kindle (think cases, filings, etc.) lack of PDF support on the Kindle 2 is a major shortcoming. I have had good luck converting docs with MobiCreator, but it’s not perfect by any means. Note: The Kindle DX has native PDF support, but I don’t have one, so I can’t speak to that.

Finally, the price break for legal books is kind of a joke, unless the experience is greatly enhanced (which just hasn’t been the case for me–yet). I buy more Kindle fiction because it’s quick, it’s easy, and the reading experience is pretty solid. I would be really reluctant to drop $200+ on a legal title that is going to be a pain-in-the-rear to read. Frankly, for what they cost, I think they should just give you a Kindle version free if you buy the print edition. Otherwise, they would need to provide a steeper discount than 20% to make up for the pain of reading a professional doc on the Kindle. Just my $.02.

Brian Fletcher July 13, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Great info. Thanks for contributing to this post.

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