Ipad Toting Librarians May Be on the Way

Wilson and LaFleur first to market

The first ipad application reached the Canadian legal research market just before the year end as Lexis Nexis joined Wilson and LaFleur in offering French language texts through an ipad. Using a free application developed specifically for Wilson and LaFleur publications, the two publishers have taken a small but significant step in making their content available to their customers by means of an ipad.

The titles offered by Wilson and LaFleur include:

1. Code civil du Quebec
2. Code criminal
3. Lois du Quebec
4. Droit des affaires
5. Code de procedure civile

The titles offered by LexisNexis include:

1. La preuve électronique au Québec (Phillips) — Electronic evidence: a new reality in the landscape of Quebec law
2. Le droit des technologies de l’information au Québec (Paul) — A reference tool for information technology lawyers

Wilson and LaFleur titles may be ordered through their website while the Lexis Nexis announcement states that “to order the following e-books for the iPad, download the Wilson and Lafleur app from the Apple® App Store”.

Just the beginning

These titles are just the beginning. Many more are expected and soon. As well as more titles, we can expect more sophisticated applications for legal publications. Claude Wilson, the driving force behind Wilson and LaFleur, has said that he has plans to enhance the search capability of the application, thereby increasing its utility to the legal profession.

While a bit more circumspect, Lexis Nexis has indicated that more titles will be forthcoming using an application of its own that it has developed for the legal profession. While we have yet to hear from Carswell, we can expect that it will not be long before it enters the fray.

It is a fact that much uncertainty exists with regard to the distribution of legal publications through the ipad, but legal publishers ultimately have no choice but to move forward and provide content through ipads and similar products developed by companies other than Apple.

Offering a handful of French language titles first is seen by some as a low risk test of market acceptance. No major revenue sources have as yet been put in play by the titles that have thus far been offered for sale but that will quickly change as the major English language legal publishers act to ensure that they do not lose market share in the event that the ipad proves to be a game changer. A key battleground will be in the market for annotated criminal codes and rules of civil procedure. The publisher first to market may gain a competitive edge.

The law librarian in the ipad era

At the recent annual meeting of Libraryco legal research professionals, one of the attendees offered up the vision of a law librarian doing her rounds with a portfolio of ebooks on an ipad hanging from her waist, much like a gunslinger of old. While an ipad is a bit more awkward to carry than a gun, and not easily fitted in a holster, the concept is a brilliant image of what might come to pass as both large and small legal publishers offer ipad options in the Canadian legal market.

Real benefits – not just marketing hype

The ipad (and its equivalents) will stick and not only as a result of relentless marketing hype orchestrated by Apple, although that certainly helps. The ipad will stick because it offers real benefits to a law libraries, law firms and legal researchers that are not available through an online service.

To the law library or law firm, the most important feature is that the content on an ipad is purchased, not merely licensed. This must offer some comfort to law librarians in particular who have long been concerned that dollars spent on online services merely license content for a defined period of time and add nothing to the permanent collection. What will happen to a law library if and when budget restraints make it impossible to absorb the costs of the online services provided by the major commercial legal publishers.

The acceptance of the ipad also provides legal practitioners with an alternative means of accessing the digital version of a legal treatise without having to subscribe to an expensive large scale online service, bloated with content of little or no interest to the legal researcher. The ipad will make it possible for a researcher to have digital access to a specific text published by a commercial publisher and then access any necessary primary documents through free services such as CANLII.

From the publishers perspective, a personalized ipad application such as that developed by Wilson and LaFleur provides a means of establishing its own price, ensuring that costs are covered including the royalties payable to authors. Every one can play. Both small and large publishers can make content available though the Wilson and LaFleur application, or through an application that they develop for themselves.

The ipad may also help re-establish the pre-eminent position of the legal treatise as the starting point in legal research, freeing the mind of the user from the distraction of unlimited access to case law and legislation, which some believe impedes the quality of legal research. The use of a treatise permits the researcher to focus on the legal problem at hand. A treatise on an ipad is also something designed to be read, as well as used for legal research. Professor Swan should be happy.

All in all, we are in for another round of content migration, this time to a new platform that meets the as yet unfulfilled need of institutions and researchers to own content, as well as the need of legal researchers to have convenient electronic access to selected legal treatises without having to subscribe to a major online service. Not a bad thing.


  1. Gary, do you get any sense that the legal publishers are starting to think about creating “borrowable” versions of their texts? There will still be times that we will want to provide a copy of a treatise to a user on a temporary basis, because the title is not part of their everyday practice. If we have to buy a copy of a title for every potential user, prices had better be pretty low!

  2. From the point of view of a law firm librarian, I see a place for the iPad (or other e-readers) for publications that a firm might otherwise provide to individuals in print, such as the annotated codes that Gary mentions. Like Wendy, I am concerned about the idea of downloading texts to individuals on e-readers. First of all, it flies in the face of the concept of the library as a shared resource. Secondly, I wonder how this could be efficiently administered. If associate or student A has a contracts question, would he/she download Waddams, McCamus, Swan, Fridman, Chitty? So much for any idea of budgets. Or would people come to the librarian who as the financial gatekeeper would say, \You can download two of them\? So much for any idea of comprehensive research.

    I’m on the iPad every day, have read books on it and see its potential for information delivery in a law firm setting, but publishers will have to think long and hard about pricing, sales and licensing issues for treatises in particular.

  3. Gary P. Rodrigues

    The comments set out above provide an outline of the questions surrounding the introduction of ipads and their equivalents that would be best raised at the CALL Publishers Forum.

    At the moment, I foresee library use for specific titles purchased for use on a particular ipad. Useful but not very efficient. It may be that the legal publishers themselves may have better ideas to share with CALL members in the spring that would make library use more effective and useful to legal researchers.

  4. Gary P. Rodrigues

    Further to the comments set out above, I just received the following notice regarding a panel at the annual Digital Book World conference in New York City. It might serve as a model for a dialogue with legal publishers:

    The Ebook Ecosystem: Where do Libraries Fit?
    “North Carolina Digital Library has offered eBook downloads since 2005, and in the past year we’ve seen a tremendous increase in checkouts,” said Ruth Ann Copley, director of the Davidson County Public Library in North Carolina.

    When it comes to ebooks, no other member of the publishing community faces more challenging questions than public libraries. What aspects of the publishing business model have to be rethought in order to build a sustainable ebook model for libraries? Does patron-driven purchasing have a place in the trade-public library business?

    At Digital Book World 2011, Library Journal’s Josh Hadro will moderate a panel, The Ebook Ecosystem: Where do Libraries Fit?, that will attempt to offer answers to these thorny questions. He will be joined by Ruth Liebmann, VP, Director of Account Marketing, Random House; Christopher Platt, Acting Director, Collections and Circulating Operations, The New York Public Library; and Steve Potash, President and CEO of OverDrive, Inc.”