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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wanted: Tax Casebook Authors (For $20k-$25k)

ELangdell_Page_1 CALI (Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) has launched the eLangdell Electronic Casebook Stimulus Project to create an open repository of high-quality ebooks for teaching in various areas of law, including tax.  CALI will pay law faculty a $500 stipend per chapter for contributions to its repository.  The materials will be made available free of charge to faculty, students, and the general public under a Creative Commons license.

  • You must be tenured or tenure track faculty at a U.S. CALI member law school.
  • You must submit a one-page outline of each chapter for review and approval by an editorial committee.
  • Your $500 stipend is paid upon completion of each chapter.
  • All chapters will be reviewed by the CALI Editorial Board prior to publication.
  • CALI will publish all chapters under a Creative Commons Attribution license to allow other faculty, students, and even the public to use your materials in their learning and teaching.
  • There are limited funds available – CALI may limit the number of chapters we commission.
  • It is acceptable and even welcomed for faculty to donate chapters for inclusion and publication in the Legal Education Commons.

This is a pilot project to explore new methods of educational delivery. For this project, a “chapter” is defined as the amount of material that a student is expected to read in preparation for one hour of class. Submissions for publication must include teaching notes and end-of-chapter comments and questions to assist other faculty in the adoption of your material for their courses.

I think this is a wonderful project, empowering faculty to assemble various chapters contributed to the repository into a customized book for their courses.  The allure of free course materials for students is particularly compelling in light of skyrocketing law school tuition and uncertain job prospects for law grads.  And the $500 per chapter is quite generous for authors -- for the average casebook with 40-50 chapters, that translates to $20,000 - $25,000, which is more than many tax casebooks generate for their authors in royalties.  (Disclosure: I am Vice-President of the CALI Board of Directors.)

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Comments

What casebook has 50 chapters? Not one that can be finished in a semester!

Posted by: Michael A. Livingston | Jan 14, 2010 10:04:04 AM

Remember, they're defining a "chapter" as "the amount of material that a student is expected to read in preparation for one hour of class." So they're paying for 50 hours of class time.

I like the concept. It's maddening to pay $500/semester (a conservative average) for law books when 90% of the text (the cases) is available for free. I know, somebody has to make decisions on compiling and trimming the cases; I'm not suggesting textbook authors shouldn't get paid. But there has to be a better way to distribute casebooks that cost a fortune for so little original information.

Posted by: Stephen | Jan 14, 2010 2:58:19 PM

I do have a question about the project, though: how will updates be handled? Having no financial incentive to update the textbooks will probably lead to outdated textbooks. On the other hand, automatically paying per update per chapter will add incentives to make 50 minor changes each year. Perhaps giving the author the right to suggest a change (say, if an important new case comes out), and paying only if the change is accepted by the board, would be the way to go.

Is there a policy in place? Or has the project not progressed that far yet?

Posted by: Stephen | Jan 14, 2010 3:08:57 PM

A very good question Stephen.

First of all, all of the chapters that we commission and publish will be provided in multiple formats including RTF, HTML and PDF. This means that faculty can update the material themselves. We would hope that they would then re-contribute these updated chapters back to the Legal Education Commons (legaleducationcommons.org).

If enough of a community develops around a collection of chapters, I am hoping that a individual or small group will self-identify as willing to keep the materials up to date for the benefit of the rest of the community. We (CALI) will develop mechanisms on the website to recognize and laud these folks. I can envision approaching existing communities like AALS sections or groups of faculty who all teach the same topic at one law school to step to do this. In some cases, I can imagine CALI providing bounties to update materials. Pure crowdsourcing needs someone to apply energy and organizational effort to keep the process working – that's CALIs role.

I can also imagine enterprising young faculty, fresh out of tenure and particulary savvy to open access ideals, wanting to associate their name with a popular commons ecasebook. By providing more and better updates than anyone else, they would establish a name for themselves among other academics.

Some or all of these ideas could work – we will have to see how it goes. The key, from my perspective, is to provide sufficient scaffolding and make the work sufficiently small so that it is easy and convenient for busy law faculty to contribute. The $500 ain't a bad deal either.

John Mayer
Executive Director
CALI
jmayer@cali.org

Posted by: John Mayer | Jan 15, 2010 1:18:16 PM