“Weighing Paper against Pixel”

From the November issue of Scientific AmericanWhy the brain prefers paper, by Ferris Jabr

In many studies people understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on screens.  Researchers think the physicality of paper explains this discrepancy.

Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries

By Jonathan Abel, in Volume 101, Issue #5 of The Georgetown Law Journal (June 2013).  Here’s the abstract:

The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate’s right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. This Article takes up that challenge by providing a novel historical account of the prison law library’s development.

This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates’ behavior. By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century–half a century earlier than typical accounts–this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine. The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts’ attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts. As prisons look to update their law libraries in light of sweeping technological changes, it is all the more important to understand the history of the law library system so that authorities can plan for its future.



French Law 2012-287: Database of Digitized 20th Century Books

Law 2012-287 was published in the Official Journal of France on March 2, 2012. The law, which amended France’s Intellectual Property Code, proposes building a free, public database of digitized books that were published in the 20th Century and are no longer in commercial distribution. The Bibliothèque national de France (BNF) would be in charge of creating and administering the database.

Publishers and rights holders will have 6 months to challenge inclusion of a book in the database. It also appears that after raising a challenge, publishers have three years to demonstrate a market for the book, or that they have created their own digitized version.

I did not see a specific appropriation of funds in the bill, so it is unclear to me how the BNF will finance the project.

Reaction on French law librarian mailing lists and blogs has been positive, but muted. Wait and see seems to be the prevailing sentiment.

Whether this bill leads to a free database or not, let’s hope that it spurs debate in France, Europe, and across the Atlantic, about the role of digitized books in society.

Law 2012-287 relative à l’exploitation numérique des livres indisponibles du XXe siècle.

Full-text of the bill and links to legislative history materials are available at

Some authors’ groups have already criticized the bill for ignoring copyright law. For example, see the petition circulated by writer Yal Ayerdhal:

Additional commentary on the bill from the Rue89 blog

Michael Hart, Father of Project Gutenberg

Today’s New York Times includes the lengthy obituary: “Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64.”

The obit tells the story of the fascinating history of Project Gutenberg, which was born when Mr. Hart typed out the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1971 and made it freely downloadable from Arpanet.   From that beginning, the project has grown to include over 30,000 books.

The obituary also discusses various copyright issues and Mr. Hart’s connection with then Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig when Prof. Lessig met for lunch with Mr. Hart to see if he might serve as lead plaintiff in a constitutional challenge to the Copyright Term Extension Act.  Mr. Hart, after pouring sugar on his pizza, told Prof. Lessig that he saw the ligitation as a chance to “challenge the entire social and economic system of the United States.”    According to the obit. Prof. Lessig was looking for someone a little “less visionary” and enlisted Eric Eldred for the cause, which resulted in the 2003 Supreme Court decision Eldred v. Ashcroft.

E-book lending sites

From today’s Wall Street Journal (p. B8):

Digital Media

E-Book Lending Takes Off

New Online Clubs That Let Readers Share Have Drawbacks but Worry Publishers

By Stu Woo

. . .

In the past few months, online clubs with such names as BookLending.com and Lendle.me have proliferated. The sites, some of which have gathered thousands of users, allow strangers to borrow and lend e-books for Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook free.

Kindle and Libraries

In yesterday’s New York Times, Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft reported on Apple’s tighter control of the App store.    TechCrunch then added that Apple’s moves may “foreshadow war with Amazon Kindle.” 

As Jason Kincaid writes: ” instead of beating Amazon on price or features, it looks like Apple might just cut them off. Or force them to use in-app payments, which give Apple a 30% cut and would kill Amazon’s margins. Amazon has avoided using Apple’s in-app payments system by kicking users to a browser to complete their transaction, but according to the NYT report . . .  it sounds like this will be banned.”

Just last week, Amazon announced a major event: Kindle book sales had finally passed paperback books sales on Amazon.com. (Last year, Kindle book sales outpaced hardcovers.)

With all of this swirling about (and very little mention of what this means for libraries), what should I see on our shelving truck? 

Gregory K. Laughlin has a new article in the University of Baltimore Law Review: “Digitization and Democracy:  The Conflict Between the Amazon Kindle License Agreement and the Role of Libraries in a Free Society.” (Volume 40, Number 1, Fall 2010)

Laughlin asks “whether libraries may lend e-books to patrons without violating the copyright owners’ exclusive right of distribution.”    He continues:

“Amazon, in the license agreement to which a purchaser of a  Kindle e-book must assent prior to downloading the e-book, retains ownership of the “Digital Content” (i.e. the e-book), and imposes a number of restrictions that are inconsistent with transfer of ownership to the purchaser, including prohibiting redistribution.  If libraries are not owners of the Kindle e-books they acquire, then by the explicit terms of the Amazon license agreement, as well as Section 106 of the Copyright Act, they may not lend the e-books to their patrons.”


“Are the license terms prohibiting the lending of e-books (and other digital content) enforceable under existing law? . . . If so, should the Copyright Act be amended to provide libraries with an inalienable right to lend e-books that is equivalent to their current right to lend printed books?”

Laughlin argues: “The right of libraries to lend e-books to their patrons should be inalienable…. There is still time for society as a whole to establish definitively what rights a library has to lend e-books that it acquires.  Congress should guarantee that the interests of the reading public are protected; and it should do so in a way that guarantees the same freedom of access to e-books that the public has enjoyed with physical books for well over a century.”

Bringing Fairness to International Justice: a Handbook on the International Criminal Court for Defense Lawyers in Africa

Bringing Fairness to International Justice: a Handbook on the International Criminal Court for Defense Lawyers in Africa

Jolyon Ford

Pretoria (Tshwane),: Institute for Security Studies, 2009


From the Introduction:

Consider the following six brief and related statements:


1. Impunity and inaction in response to the most serious crimes of concern to the

international community represent a failure to meet human rights principles,

to respect victims, and to deal with issues affecting future peace.


2.A global consensus exists on the need to provide an acceptable, principled

international criminal justice system as a means to deal with perpetrators of

international crimes: that consensus is reflected in the Rome Statute of the



3.The ICC is only likely to be perceived as just, effective, legitimate and

sustainable to the extent that it is fair in its treatment of those brought before



4. Representation by a competent independent legal defence counsel is, in turn,

considered indispensible to fair investigations and trials in the ICC and other

international criminal tribunals.


5.The role of the defence lawyer in ensuring systematic fairness in international

justice deserves more attention generally.


6.There is, in particular, an ongoing need for more awareness raising and

capacity building in order to enable African lawyers to engage in the work of

the ICC in general and in Africa, including by acting as defence counsel or



This handbook explores some of the issues raised in these statements with a view

to increasing African lawyers’ understanding of, and engagement, with the ICC

and its processes and in particular the role of defence counsel, in order to help

bring fairness to international justice.


Law libraries as innovation centers

Harvard Law Library director John Palfrey is quoted in this story from today’s Boston Globe:

Boston Globe, Monday, May 24, 2010

Home / News / Education  

Harvard’s paper cuts
School library works to maintain stature in the shift to digitalBy Tracy Jan

The thin, tattered book, an 1899 dissertation on Homer, written in French, is tucked into one of the more than 40 shelves devoted to the epic poet in the stacks of Widener Library. Collecting obscure works like this one has helped Harvard amass the world’s largest university library…”Libraries have to think of themselves as innovation centers, and not just repeat what we have done in the past, “said Harvard Law professor John Palfrey, who is a leading a project to shape the future of the school’s libraries.

. . .

Palfrey has added engineers, statisticians, and graphic designers to the law school library staff. His team is working on a Web application that browses a virtual bookshelf with works stacked against one another to re-create the experience of wandering through musty stacks and serendipitously stumbling upon titles.

The library is also planning to build a virtual reference desk, where students who rarely seek the help of librarians can solicit research advice without having to set foot in a library. Librarians would assist students through e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, and Skype.

. . .

And Harvard Law School is in discussions with other law schools about having each school collect in specialized areas.

. . .

On E-readers

The number one best-selling product on Amazon.com this holiday season is the Kindle.  Visit sony.com and you’ll see a big push for the Sony Reader.  The same is true with Barnes & Noble and the new Nook.

As a book junkie, I confess I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.  E-readers are expensive, the screens are small and drab, and the interfaces are clunky and slow.  I’m not saying “don’t buy a Kindle” — I understand the convenience of putting a lot of books on a small, light device.  The e-books are cheaper than their print brethren, and yes, it is kind of cool to be able to say you have a library in the palm of your hand.  But books can be obtained FREE at the library, most people who aren’t students don’t carry more than one book around, and books are ridiculously easy to use.

More importantly, where is the fun in a one-dimensional informational gadget?  Hasn’t the smart phone taught the e-reader makers that we want to be able to surf the Web, send texts and emails, listen to music, watch videos, and make phone calls all in one device?

Well, maybe it has.  The major magazine publishers have recently piped up to unveil a prototype for a digital magazine concept that ideally works on a tablet-like computer.  TechCrunch has excellent coverage of the prototype in a recent post, a video from which is below.

It will be interesting to see if the e-magazine concept takes off the way the e-book concept seems to have done.  One aspect of this digital magazine prototype that I find inherently more interesting is the way the content is re-imagined for the digital medium.  This concept isn’t  just re-distributing the same print magazine like the e-readers are doing, it’s adding interactivity and inter-connectivity.

Another possible game changer is the much-rumored Apple tablet computer, which is speculated to be smaller and lighter than current tablet PC’s.  Supposedly set for a 2010 release, the Apple tablet may become the iPhone of e-readers–in other words a “must-have” type of portable device that can not only run applications and play music, but can also display e-books and e-magazines, dynamically and in full color.  As a September 2009 Gizmodo post points out:

Some [Gizmodo’s writer has] talked to believe the initial content will be mere translations of text to tablet form. But while the idea of print on the Tablet is enticing, it’s nothing the Kindle or any E-Ink device couldn’t do. The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video and interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static. And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static E-Ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it’ll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today.

It seems likely, then, that with Apple’s tablet, and Microsoft’s similar device the “Courier” on the way, current e-readers are probably just the first wave before a much larger and more interesting tablet computer invasion.

UPDATE [12/15/2009] : It’s worth mentioning that there is a wave of color e-readers on the way, too.  Qualcomm’s Mirasol-equipped e-readers, featuring a mirroring amplification display system that can split ambient light into colors, are scheduled for production in 2010.  (An interesting twist is a  potential video game controller add-on — perfect for study breaks.)  Pixtronix is developing an energy-efficient color pixel technology with the PerfectLight Display, which could find its way onto other e-readers. Meanwhile, Liquavista, a spin-off from electronics giant Philips, will use oil, water, and electricity in a technique known as electrowetting to produce color e-reader displays that use little power.  All of these technologies take advantage of ambient light to make text more readable and less energy-consuming than LCD screens commonly found on computers and smart phones today, and unlike the current E-ink readers, allow for color and video.

E-books, on the cusp of their “iPod moment”?

Full page Analysis piece in today’s Financial Times:

Brought to book

Publishing Amid rapid growth in the number of digital titles and devices to read them on, an industry barely changed isnce Gutenberg is confronting upheaval, write Ben Fenton and Salamander Davoudi

Financial Times, Friday, October 16, 2009, p. 7

From the story:

. . .

At the Frankfurt Book Fair this week, the talk has been all about the impact of the e-book, with scores of sessions and seminars devoted to discussing the implications of devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader. Another hot topic is Google’s digitisation of, so far, 10m books including about 9m still protected by copyright.

The Google Books project, arguably the first attempt to collect the planet’s collective knowledge in one (cyber) space since the Library of Alexandria was founded in the third century BC, also includes plans to allow people to buy out-of-print books from Espresso printing and binding machines.

. . .

Overall, industry executives and analysts expect digital books to reach about 20-25 per cent of the market over the next decade as publishers await their “iPod moment”, the appearance of a piece of hardware that gives the digital incarnation of the written word the same volcanic momentum that transformed the consumption, and the business, of music.