The Benefits Of Self-Publishing Electronic Casebooks (Forbes Cross-Post)

advertising book cover 2014Recently, the Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts published an online symposium called “Disruptive Publishing Models.” The articles discuss different initiatives to disrupt the traditional model for publishing legal casebooks and how those initiatives are driving down students’ costs for law school teaching materials. My colleague Rebecca Tushnet (Georgetown Law) and I contributed an article to the symposium entitled “Self-Publishing an Electronic Casebook Benefited Our Readers—And Us.” The article analyzes our experiences self-publishing our co-authored legal casebook, Advertising and Marketing Law: Cases and Materials, and it explains numerous reasons why self-publishing the book made more sense for us than pursuing the traditional publication process. The article abstract:

Self-publishing our electronic casebook, Advertising and Marketing Law: Cases & Materials, wasn’t some grand ambition to disrupt legal publishing. Our goal was more modest: we wanted to make available materials for a course we strongly believe should be widely taught in law school. Electronic self-publishing advanced that goal in two key ways. First, it allowed us to keep the price of the materials low. Second, we bypassed gatekeepers who may have degraded the casebook’s content and slowed the growth of an advertising law professors’ community.

The article draws liberally from my earlier post, “Self-Publishing A Legal Casebook: An Ebook Success Story.”

Internet Law reader cover 2015I publish a second electronic casebook, Internet Law Cases and Materials, at an even lower price point ($8/PDF). It’s not as beefy as the Advertising Law book–400 pages compared to 1,400–but I still view it as an important way I contribute to our community. I have been releasing new editions annually since 2010, including a 2015 edition in July.

Although my marketing of the book has consisted solely of announcing it on my blog and on email lists, I still view it as an ebook success story. Since I released the 2015 edition in July (and as of the date I made this post originally on Forbes), I’ve sold 94 PDFs, 20 Kindle versions and 66 print-on-demand editions (through CreateSpace) for total sales of 180 units [FN1]. This has generated total revenues of over $2,000 and net proceeds of well over $1,000. I expect these numbers to go up after another round of Spring semester adoptions and sales. By self-publishing the book, I get the many intangible benefits that Rebecca and I discuss in our article, plus an income supplement approaching $2,000 a year.

[FN1] I always provide my casebook PDFs to my students for free, so those units don’t count in the total (although I’m not teaching the course this year). In contrast, traditional publisher unit sales include the sales made when casebook authors require their students to buy their casebooks, which also raises some concerns about implicit self-dealing. Further, I offer to individually send PDFs to any hard copy purchasers who ask, and I don’t include those PDFs in the unit count. Between the two books, I’ve sent about 2 dozen individual PDFs to hard copy buyers.