“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.

Get the Reading Bug, Not Bugs from Reading….

An article in today’s New York Times, “A Dark and Itchy Night,” describes a new bed bug problem: library books.

“bedbugs have discovered a new way to hitchhike in and out of beds: library books. It turns out that tiny bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books. The bugs crawl out at night to feed, find a new home in a headboard, and soon readers are enjoying not only plot twists but post-bite welts.”

I see it already: the new marketing campaign for Kindles and iPads and Nooks (and all other flavors of e-readers) will be about reading without the need for an exterminator…..Or, the only bugs in e-books are created by programmers….

After all members of my household enjoyed reading library books in bed last night (vocational hazard), I have to stop myself from overreacting.  But, I wonder how many law students, studying for exams, will think twice about this the next time they curl up with a library copy of a Chemerinsky on Constitutional Law or Prosser and Keaton?

Writing a winning brief, in three easy steps

The best way to become a good writer is to read a lot of good writing.  And to me there’s no better legal writing than that of Judge Ruggero Aldisert.

Judge Aldisert just published the third edition of his important and popular book on Opinion Writing (details from the catalog record copied below).  This third edition (listen up, law students) includes a new chapter on law clerk duties, an expanded treatment of trial court opinions, and new chapters on administrative law judges and arbitration procedures and opinions.

But, one might ask, how will a book on opinion writing help me write a winning brief?  The answer is found in what the good judge calls his “chambers mantra” — “writing a good opinion is the best training on how to write a good brief.”

And about those three steps.  Opinion Writing, 3rd edition includes three checklists (these checklists, alone, are worth the price of the book) on opinion writing that can be used in brief writing:

1. Writing it.

2. Testing it.

3. Shortening it.

The book asks:  Why use checklists for writing, testing and shortening an opinion?  The answer:  “Checklists ensure that you touch all the bases on your way to file a ‘home run’ opinion.”  These checklists are gold, pure gold.

Here’s the book’s description from our library catalog:

Opinion writing / Ruggero J. Aldisert.

        Aldisert, Ruggero J.


        3rd ed.
        Durham, N.C. : Carolina Academic Press, c2012.

        Includes bibliographical references and index.

        Writing judicial opinions
        To write or not to write
        Reaching and justifying the decision : a distinction with a difference
        Judicial declaration of public policy
        The outline of your opinion
        Jurisdiction and standards of review
        Orientation paragraph
        Summary of issues
        Statement of facts
        Writing the reasons for the decision.


        Legal composition.
        Judicial opinions > United States.

At the Library:
        Crown (Law) > Stacks 1
                KF250 .A35 2012
                KF250 .A35 2012
                KF250 .A35 2012

Bookmark: http://searchworks.stanford.edu/catalog/9699810

Yes, we have three copies.  Every law library should have at least that many, and law librarians should encourage their students, especially their students in law school clinics, to read and heed the judge’s insightful tips.

Full disclosure:  I met Judge Aldisert in 2008 when my daughter was serving as one of his law clerks.

E-books and Cannibals

Slate.com has an article about the on-going negotiations between book publishers and vendors of e-books (Amazon in particular).  The sticking point?  E-books that cost much less than their hard copy counterparts.

“Authors and book agents also fret that low e-book prices will “cannibalize” hardcover sales, which will “undercut the sales and royalty potential of the printed hardcover,” as one agent puts it. One publisher of a hotly anticipated book is delaying the e-book by six or more months because he fears cannibalization.”

In “Does the Book Industry Want To Get Napstered?” Jack Shafer likens this fight to what occurred in the music industry in years past and comments on the likelihood of a rise in online book pirates.

E-book momentum

A front-page, above-the-fold story in today’s New York Times about e-books suggests that the devices are finding new readership and acceptance.

According to the story, “Turning Page, E-Books Start To Take Hold,” by Brad Stone and Motoko Rich, “[m]any Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-bound demographic. . . . the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds.”

The story concludes with a quote from a book reader who “once railed against e-readers” and who now is “in love with [her Kindle].”

But it’s not just the Kindle.  According to the Times:

Amazon.com’s popular Kindle is unavailable until February, creating an opening for Sony’s Reader . . . The increased competition could signal the public’s acceptance of the idea of reading longer texts on a portable digital device.

In addition to the Kindle and Sony Reader, the story makes reference to e-book applications and devices from Apple (iPhone), Fictionwise, Scroll Motion, Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision, Foxit Software, and E Ink.

Books Above the Throne: Geopolitical and Technological Factors Exalting Textual Authority in Seventeenth-Century England

Law librarian Paul Callister (UMKC School of Law) has written “Books Above the Throne: Geopolitical and Technological Factors Exalting Textual Authority in Seventeenth-Century England

Actualization of the rule of law necessitates more than the enumeration of individual rights and the careful articulation of divided powers, but the presence of an information or media environment conducive to such rule. Specifically, in the case of seventeenth-century England, it is the ascendancy of the printed book, as characteristic of the information environment, that effectively establishes a limitation on royal power.

The article applies geopolitical, temporal, and technological factors of media theory to seventeenth-century England in order to understand the effects of the information environment upon legal institutions and government. It considers factors such as the textuality of the reign of King James I, effusive spread of printing throughout Europe, smuggling of political and religious texts from overseas, citation to a much broader base of textual of authority, and developments in stabilized texts and cross-referencing to create a web of authority. Each of these factors affected the development and independent standing of legal and authoritative works, such as Lord Edward Coke`s Institutes, the English Bible, and political tracts. In turn, the influence of such works on legal and political developments curtailed absolute monarchy and led to the onset of roles for public opinion and political discourse.

A presentation, based upon this paper, was originally made at the 5th International Conference of the Book, Madrid, Spain (Oct. 2007).

Source: LSN Law & Humanities Vol. 12 No. 28,  07/30/2008

The Future of Reading and Researching the Pacific Northwest tree octopus

Today’s New York Times has a front-page feature “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?,” by Motoko Rich.  “This is the first in a series of articles that will look at how the Internet and other technological and social forces are changing the way people read.”  The article contains numerous instances of using the internet for research and the resulting potential liabilities; for example:

Web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy.  In one study, Donald J. Leu, who researches literacy and technology at the University of Connecticut, asked 48 students to look at a spoof Web site (http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/) about a mythical species known as the “Pacific Northwest tree octopus.” Nearly 90 percent of them missed the joke and deemed the site a reliable source.

The article also mentions Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” the subject of a post here, Jet Ski research” – Is Google Making Us Stoopid?  The New York Times article offers a good example of some “Jet Ski research” as performed by a 16-year old boy:

When researching the 19th-century Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for one class, he typed Taney’s name into Google and scanned the Wikipedia entry and other biographical sites.  Instead of reading an entire page, he would type in a search word like “college” to find Taney’s alma mater, assembling his information nugget by nugget.

Buying books?

Paul recently blogged about Matt Asay’s post regarding an article in The Atlantic and quoted Asay’s discussion of “returning to reading”…..So, I was really struck by the bookstore sales numbers described in the May 19th issue of Publishers Weekly (p.11).  The headline reads: “Bookstore sales up 5% in quarter” and the article goes on to mention that the bookstore segment is doing far better than the rest of the retail segment of the economy.  Although, bookstores do sell a lot of latte these days, too.

And, speaking of books, the June 2nd issue of Publishers Weekly had an interesting sidebar on “Readership by the Numbers” (p.6).  Eleven percent of the people polled (Random House/Zogby poll) enjoy reading digital books;  forty-three percent went to bookstore for a specific title; and, true enough: seventy-seven percent make additional purchases when looking for a specific title.


“Jet Ski research” – Is Google Making Us Stoopid?

Our alumnus Matt Asay has a post on The Open Road about a must-read cover story in the latest issue of The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” by Nicholas Carr.

From The Atlantic article:

. . .

My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
 . . .
 . . . a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it.

The authors of the study report:

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.
. . .

 The article has worried and inspired Matt thusly:

Which is why I’m returning to my books. I read a fair amount–the classics, mostly–but generally only when I’m traveling. As Carr points out, I, too, have difficulty reading when my computer beckons with instant gratification. I read each night to my kids before they go to bed, but Carr’s article has me thinking that I need to return to doing the same.

Over the weekend, the Asays determined that we’re going to have “reading time” each night for an hour before bed. Everyone (except my 5- and 3-year-old) will read for an hour. My kids were already doing this. The change is for me and for my wife. I need to exercise my brain to think again, and not merely process.

After you’ve finished the article, you might want to add Carr’s recent book to your summer reading list:


Author: Carr, Nicholas G., 1959-
Title: The big switch : rewiring the world, from Edison to Google / Nicholas Carr.
      Portion of title: Rewiring the world, from Edison to Google
               Edition: 1st ed.
               Imprint: New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2008.
  Physical Description: vii, 278 p. ; 25 cm.
                 Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. 235-260) and
Contents: Burden’s wheel — The inventor and his clerk — Digital millwork — Goodbye, Mr. Gates — The White City — World Wide Computer — From the many to the few — The great unbundling — Fighting the net — A spider’s web — iGod — Flame and filament.
          Subject (LC): Computers and civilization.
          Subject (LC): Information technology–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Technological innovations.
          Subject (LC): Internet.
                  ISBN: 9780393062281 (hardcover) : $25.95
                  ISBN: 0393062287 (hardcover) : $25.95