The Portable Legal Library: Lawyers and E-Readers

YourABA

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With the capacity for storing thousands of books, periodicals and documents, electronic reading devices are increasingly relevant to lawyers. The ABA Journal reported that the Practising Law Institute is publishing some of its continuing education books for the Kindle e-reader. West is following suit, making its key content accessible on a variety of mobile devices More recently, blogger Sharon Nelson shared how a fellow lawyer is using his Kindle to show judges demonstrative evidence in court.

With an entry-level price of $259, an e-reader may not be enticing as a recreational reading device; however the price is more easily justified when the technology is used as a roving reference desk for your practice.

For those not in the know, an e-reader, also known as a digital reader or e-book device, is a tool specifically designed to display reading material electronically. Besides Amazon’s Kindle, the Reader Touch Edition by Sony and the IREX iLiad Book Edition are popular examples.

Using a technology known as E Ink® Imaging Film, these devices display text that can be seen easily in direct sun and read at virtually any angle. Because e-readers typically don’t use power unless “pages” are being turned, these devices can go up to two weeks between charges. Some readers with wireless connectivity can go as long as five days between charges. E-readers typically weigh less than 12 ounces and have a range of display widths that begin at 6 inches. However, with the number of documents that lawyers often have to review, a larger display area may be more comfortable, resulting in greater use. At present only IREX and Amazon offer these larger models.

A few popular e-readers for consideration include:

iRex Digital Reader DR1000S is targeted to the business user and retails for $859. The DR1000 is one of the larger document readers, designed to view 8.5-X-11-inch documents on its 10.2-inch display. Its large display size makes it amenable to read e-mail, PDFs, Internet pages and other digital material.

This reader also has annotation capability for note taking and includes a 1 GB removable SD card, with the capacity for larger ones. At a hefty 20.1 oz., it is a solid piece of equipment. This model requires a USB connection to a PC, as it has no wireless connectivity. It has a recharging time of five hours, using a USB connection to a powered computer.

The device supports the following formats: PDF, TXT, HTML, Mobipocket PRC, JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF and BMP. It also includes access to the "Mobipocket" collection of more than 100,000 digital books.

The DR1000S is a sound alternative to printing and transporting large volumes of business documents, and is available for purchase in the United States at eReader Outfitters.

Kindle DX by Amazon retails for $489. It has a 9.7-inch display, 3G wireless connectivity and includes access to more than 360,000 books, newspapers, magazines and blogs at no additional charge through Amazon.

Its 4 GB internal memory claims to hold up to 3,500 books, periodicals and documents, but its memory is not expandable. It weighs 18.9 ounces and fully charges in approximately four hours. On a single charge, the Kindle DX allows for up to four days of use, and is re­charged using a USB connection to a computer.

The Kindle supports Amazon’s proprietary AZW file format as well as the PDF, TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI and native PRC formats. Through conversion, it also supports HTML, DOC, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP files.

The Kindle is available for purchase through Amazon.

Not presently available, but highly anticipated for its generous size is The QUE eReader by German company Plastic Logic. Scheduled to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, the device will have 3G wireless capabilities through AT&T, with content provided by Barnes & Noble. Ebook-reader-guide.com reports that the QUE prototype measures 8.5 x 11 inches, is 3/10 of an inch thick with a display size of 10.7 inches.

Besides the portability of a law library, using a digital reader in lieu of printed periodicals, newspapers and documents offers environmental benefits. It may offer cost savings, too. Lawyers subscribing to PLI’s digital editions will receive a 20 percent discount over its bound volumes.

This article first appeared in YourABA e-newsletter, a monthly publication distributed via email to all ABA members.  Learn more about the benefits of belonging to the American Bar Association.

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