Harvard Law Review and Others to Cease Hard Copy Publication; Going Digital

Embracing post-print modernity, the Harvard Law Review and several other journals announced over the weekend that they would cease producing hard copy versions in favor of publishing only on-line.

The announcement, joined by the group of journals that co-edit “The Bluebook,” a  leading guide to legal citation that went digital five years ago, responds to rising costs of printing along with declining demand for the format.

“Legal scholars, like other people, do their reading digitally,” said the announcement, issued jointly by the editors of Harvard, Columbia and Penn Law Reviews and Yale Law Journal, which already has a substantial on line commitment.

Reaction from across the legal academy was mixed.  Some law review editors at other schools expressed relief. “We have long desired to move this way too, but feared ridicule if we got out ahead of the fanciest journals,” confided one journal’s editor in chief, insisting on anonymity.

Other editors criticized the move as over-broad.  “There  continues to be widespread belief that printed versions of symposium issues are cost-effective and in demand,” opined Allen Nobile, symposium editor at Cardozo Law School’s top journal.

Among those applauding the move were some who attributed the development to advocacy on this blog, especially the recent post by Aaron Zelinsky urging this step.  After all, as Zelinsky noted, law reviews are among the last cohort to make the shift, lagging behind such organs as the Internal Revenue Bulletin, ProPublica, and the science journal PLOS-ONE.

More old-fashioned sorts were seen poised to lament the move as continued evidence of the decline of the printed word, bound volumes of historic and cultural value lost at some cost, perhaps.

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3 Responses

  1. Howard Wasserman says:

    Do you have a link to the statement itself?

  2. Aaron Zelinsky says:

    And here I was genuinely excited until I got to the tags.

  3. AnonProf says:

    As I read, until I got to the tags, my heart literally sped up and I could feel my blood pressure rising.

    I’m glad to see this is a joke. I still read journals in their physical form. I subscribe to many through our library. So many of my waking hours are spent looking at the computer screen that reading in print gives them significant relief. What’s more, I like going through journals and reading abstracts on subjects I don’t know well, which is something I don’t and probably wouldn’t do in digital format. Finally, the potential for manipulation of the online word and for monetization of scholarship is too great to go to electronic publication alone. Better to have both formats.