Update Re Law-Related E-Books

I have earlier posted (here and here) on the increasing availability of Canadian legal treatises being available online (by subscription).

Here is a brief update: Colleague Katherine Thompson at my firm has compiled an internal list – with hypertext links – of all the Canadian e-books we have access to at our firm from LexisNexis Quicklaw, WestlaweCARSWELL, Carswell’s e-reference library, CCH Online and Canada Law Book.

We also included a few “historical” titles from HeinOnline for fun, such as Black’s Law Dictionary (2d ed., 1910) and Broom’s Selection of Legal Maxims, Classified and Illustrated (8th ed., 1882).

All in all, there are over 150 titles in the list, organized into 31 topics (from administrative law to tort law) (I realize purists might argue that the 24 CCH Online titles, such as the Ontario Corporations Law Guide, are not necessarily considered monographic and hence perhaps not technically an e-book despite their commentary, but that still results in over 100 books being available online).

The list was a worthwhile effort and I have already used it a number of times for its convenience. The process of compiling the list also alerts you to e-book titles that you forget are available online, such as the Law Society of Upper Canada Special Lectures 2004, Corporate and Commercial Law (on Quicklaw) and Sanagan’s Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims (5th ed.) (on Carswell’s e-reference library), to name only but two examples. One title from Canada Law Book that I like because of its hypertextability is Brown and Beatty’s Canadian Labour Arbitration (4th ed.).

Angela Swan and I discussed these developments earlier this week and I think we both agree that the printed book has the huge advantage of comfort and the discovery that comes about through serendipitous browsing. However, we also agreed I think that a combined approach of print and full-text keyword searching of e-books was effective, especially since the entire universe of Canadian legal treatises remains printbound for some time (until Google Books rules the world). In other words, effective legal researchers will not limit their “book” research to only print or only online but will incorporate both forms of media.


  1. It will be very interesting to see how improvements in the i-book and Kindle help to move the adoption of e-books along. A friend of mine (a lawyer) has an i-book and loves it. She says that the ergonomics/readability is rapidly approaching that of paper, and she can store up to 200 novels on it. I was recently musing about whether or not the legal publishers are even talking to the hardware providers. I can certainly see how useful it would be to be able to have instant access to legal texts and dictionaries in a portable, readable format. I hope your post generates some discussion – thanks, Ted!

  2. There’s also the possibility of “print on demand” machines — at least where the electronic copy is or can be appropriately formatted. These range in price from absurdly high to obtainable-by-a-law-firm and can put out a perfect-bound book in very short order.