Irwin Law’s E-Books

Irwin Law Inc. … announce[d yesterday] the launch of our new Digital Editions, in partnership with VitalSource Technologies Inc. In September, we will offer six titles in our Essentials of Canadian Law collection in this new digital format. Digital Editions provide users with a permanent, portable digital text with identical content to the print editions. In addition, users can customize page views, perform single and multiple book searches, highlight text, make searchable notes, link easily to case law databases and print, copy, and paste with bibliographic support. If you have access to QuickFind through the Quicklaw system, you can highlight citations in our Digital Editions and link seamlessly to the full text, summary or citator record for that case on Quicklaw. The VitalSource library software is free. Customers can purchase the Digital Editions from the Irwin Law or VitalSource websites, or from campus bookstores. The texts that will be available in this format in September are:

  • Administrative Law by David J. Mullan
  • Personal Property Security Law by Ronald C.C. Cuming, Catherine Walsh, & Roderick J. Wood
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 3e by Robert J. Sharpe & Kent Roach
  • The Law of Evidence, 4e by David M. Paciocco & Lee Stuesser
  • The Law of Partnerships and Corporations, 2e by J. Anthony VanDuzer
  • The Law of Trusts, 2e by Eileen Gillese & Martha Milczynski

All of these titles are offered at the same price as the print editions. More titles will be available in this format in January.

Thanks to Irwin Law I’ve had a chance to look at a couple of these texts using VitalSource. The book reader does what you’d want and expect an e-book reader to do: it offers you the table of contents to the left and the text in a panel to the right (click on the image to the left for a popup view of what I’m describing); you can alter the view to make the TOC go away, to make multiple columns appear and so forth. It’s a bit annoying that in the Mac version at least you have to go to the program’s preferences to enlarge the type or alter the width of columns, something that should be corrected in later releases of VitalSource’s reader, Bookshelf.

There’s provision for highlighting selected passages — with at least four different colours — and for making notes on small popup “stickies” that are then indicated in the text very like comments in a Word document. Handily, you can call up your notes and highlighted material sorted in various ways, and you’re able to export your notes as text files. You can also print the book, should you wish, a chapter at a time.

Clearly aimed at the student market, the books in this form will likely prove useful for some. In my experience though, students feel the need for a printed version (understandably: BOOK= “best organization of knowledge”) and so, faced with a choice between buying the book in print and the electronic version, I suspect they’ll plump for the paper version. It would, of course, be ideal if an electronic copy came with each purchase of the text in paper. I may be wrong about student preferences, though, and will be interested to hear from Irwin in a year’s time, say, as to how things are going.

Kudos to them for repurposing their digital material in this way after the split with Quicklaw.


  1. One problem with the digital books for students is that you can’t bring any electronic devices into an exam with you, and your laptop is locked from accessing anything (at Osgoode anyway). You need the paper copy if you want to be able to refer to your notes during the exam.

  2. Good point, Evan. (I keep forgetting about exams. Wonder why.) You could, of course, print stuff out as you wished, but that could get bulky or fussy if you tried to do a book-like print job.

  3. Thanks for your kind words, Simon. Please note that the Irwin Law books that are currently available on Quicklaw along with a number of new or revised titles, will remain available to QL/Lexis subscribers. However, with the launch of the new QL platform, these databases will no longer be available to those with student accounts.

    Our intention for the Essentials of Canadian Law series has always been to offer well-written, concise, and authoritative treatments of the law at affordable prices. We also believe strongly that our authors should be remunerated for the use of their work. The decision to restrict student access to our material on the new platform was taken only after extensive analysis of student online usage and in consultation with many of our authors. In short, the loss in revenue resulting from continued free student access to electronic versions of our texts seriously threatens our ability to produce affordable texts. And of course, free student usage generates no royalties for our authors. We hope that these new digital editions will be of use to those students who prefer electronic to print resources.