Peter W. Martin, a professor at Cornell Law School, has just posted Possible Futures for the Legal Treatise in an Environment of Wikis, Blogs, and Myriad Online Primary Law Sources to SSRN. (Great subject!) Here’s the abstract:
Major law publishers have begun producing ebook versions of some of the legal treatises they own. Despite asserted advantages over both print and online versions of the same content, these represent a step back from what treatises have become within the major online services and even further from what they might become now that numerous sources of primary law are directly accessible via the Internet.
The article traces the corporate and technological developments that have placed existing treatises in their present posture. Drawing upon the author’s own work preparing a legal treatise designed for digital rather print delivery, it reviews a range of possible futures for this classic form of legal scholarship.
The article argues (1) that electronic treatises that have been cut loose from print norms can offer major advantages in format and function over print treatises that have simply been ported to Westlaw, Lexis, or one of their competitors and (2) that strong reasons exist for treatise authors and those with a stake in their work to prefer publication on the open Web to inclusion in one of the large proprietary systems. It concludes with a description of Web-based utilities that might enable such treatises to be competitive with those held in the major online systems and with speculation about the institutional arrangements that might enable treatise-like works delivered in electronic format to survive and even thrive without being confined to a single comprehensive database.