The eFuture is coming…yeah, but when is it going to be real?

In a Legal Insight post from 2014, ‘The Future of Law: Disappearing Legal Library and Virtual Firms’ an infographic showed that by 2044 45% of respondents surveyed believed that their legal library would virtually disappear.

Ignoring the opportunities to analyse the phrase “virtually disappear”, I’m choosing to assume that this is in reference to physical floor space. Sure, there’s our physical collections will continue to shrink – but even by 2044, I doubt that everything we hold in print will be available electronically. Or at least in a functional way.

A more recent Thomson Reuters Whitepaper, Law Libraries’ Digital Revolution, discusses the benefits of moving to eBook collections. 

Now, I’m pro eBook in theory. If only they worked the same as a hardcopy. 

  • Mental topography, or, when we read on dead trees, do we retain more? (See: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens).
  • eBooks don’t necessarily equal a saving in money (or time).
  • Speed of retrieval: catalogue-shelf-read v log in to website-borrow book-log out of website-download and install app-log into app-download book-read (streamlined to avoid the wifi won’t connect matters).
  • Many publishers only sell eBooks to individuals, so the Library is left out of the bargain.
  • The ability to mark up, tag, refer to in court, not electrocute yourself when you drop it in the bathtub….
  • The availability of indexes – sure I can search the electronic encyclopaedia but what if I just want to browse for a topic?
  • Delays in the new edition of a book becoming available in eBook, out of date materials are a big danger in any practice.
  • Inter Library Loans. Libraries have fewer avenues for access to legal materials held in other collections. This of course has a great impact on the public who have restricted access to legal information already by virtue of case report series sitting behind publisher paywalls.

 What else do you want to see an eBook or other electronic resource be able to do?

Alice Hewitt,

ALLA (WA) Secretary 2017-2018


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