Category: Amazon


SCOTUS-Books-in-Brief – Goodbye to the Sloooow Past!

Top Five Books has just announced a forthcoming series of e-books on Supreme Court cases. The series is titled “SCOTUS: Books-in-Brief.”  It is designed to provide readers – lay and scholarly alike – with a reliable, informative, and engaging narrative account of a significant Supreme Court ruling shortly after it comes down. Provided in e-book format, each work will be economically priced and accessible on multiple e-platforms.

Each e-book will be available within a week of the decision and will consist of an historical account of the general subject, a full statement of its facts, profiles of the parties, analyses of the lower court judgments, examination of the briefs filed and the oral arguments in the WMS-cover2Supreme Court, a discussion of the larger issues raised by the case, an analysis of the final judgment, and a comprehensive timeline – and all completed and ready for e-publication shortly after a Court ruling is rendered.

The first book in the series (now virtually complete at 75,000 words save for commentary on the forthcoming ruling) is When Money Speaks: The McCutcheon Decision, Campaign Finance Laws, and the First Amendment. (See excerpt here.)

Writers Wanted!

If you are a good writer, have expertise in a certain area pertaining to a case before the Supreme Court, and can complete a 30,000-40,000 word manuscript (depending on the complexity of the case and subject matter) in a relatively short period of time, then contact us – we’d love to hear from you.

For more information about those on the advisory board and the series generally, click here.


Is Forensics Law?

I’ve blogged on these pages before about the claim, popularized by Larry Lessig, that “code is law.”  During the Concurring Opinions symposium on Jonathan Zittrain’s 2010 book The Future of The Internet (And How To Stop It), I cataloged the senses in which architecture or “code” is said to constitute a form of regulation.  “Primary” architecture refers to altering a physical or digital environment to stop conduct before it happens.  Speed bumps are a classic example.  “Secondary” architecture instead alters an environment in order to make conduct harder to get away with—for instance, by installing a traffic light camera or forcing a communications network to build an entry point for law enforcement. Read More


Authors’ Copies and Amazon Prices

My wife and I want to give quite a few copies of my new book to friends, family and colleagues.  My publisher gives me a certain number free, per our contract, but not enough to cover our whole list.  So I have to buy some.

I get a discounted price, under my contract, of 40% off the publisher’s list price.  Sounds good, but then again, on amazon, the sales price to the market, including me, is even less .  So I’ll be buying on amazon.

The discount pricing clause in my contract is becoming antiquated.  Pre-amazon, it was a good deal.  It has been a standard publishing contract clause for decades.  It remains a good deal for those books that amazon does not deeply discount, but those are going the way of the buggy whip too.  

The differential gives authors valid incentives to buy their own books from amazon, boosting sales rank. Suspicious bulk buying to boost sales has always won a dagger (asterisk) in best seller lists. The notation warns of an author trying to boost sales to make the list. Now it is  a routine decision to buy books to share one’s work with one’s dearest.  The notations are heading for the dustbins of history as well. 

Amazon is changing the world in vastly more consequential ways than this.*  But these are not trivial changes to those of us who write books and read publishing contracts.   


* Cf. the category listing below this post, noting “Posted in Amazon.”  Amazon is one of about 100 default categories bloggers at Co-Op may use to classify posts; others include Criminal Law, Current Events, Politics, Race, Securities and Teaching.


Print is Dead; Long Live the Word (Britannica Stops the Presses)

Print is Dead. Long Live the Word. Britannica Stops the Presses. Welcome to the Henry Blake cliche festival. CNN Money reports that after 244 years the print edition of Britannica will no longer be offered. As many may recall, one study indicated the Wikipedia was more close to as accurate than Britannica. It may come as no surprise to those who know me that I tend to ask questions. My parents we of the “Look it up” school of thought. They bought World Book (remember them?) which fell short of my needs quickly. Then they bought a set of Britannica. It was lovely. Leather (or simulated perhaps), gilt edged, the micro and macro pedias, lined up in the den on wooden shelves. I ceased talking to my parents and went to the books. I loved them. In grade school, I learned that they were not to be cited but used to guide deeper research. Yes, grade school. So I was quite fortunate. My parents could afford such a luxury, and I reveled in it.

But let’s not obsess over print. Yes, analog copies are more difficult to reach out and destroy. I questioned the ability to manipulate e-books when I wrote “One possibility of the new technology is that books will continually evolve as authors change their mind or update a text. This idea brings images of revisionist Greedo shootings.” That ability was connected to Orwell in theory, and then when Amazon in fact used the power to remove a book, (remember it was in fact Orwell’s 1984?). But think about the costs for buying the research tool that was a multi-volume set. Today the print edition is $1395. I think was more when I was a kid, and that they used a model familiar to academics and software users (pay for updates) to generate revenue after the first sale. You also had to have room for the books. Digital divide and access to knowledge discussions can miss that the cost of the set would cover Internet access for 20 months. Of course one needs a computer too. But the computer and the Internet access can do much more than access one set of data. I suppose someone could study the cost of paper, binding, and shipping compared to the energy and materials for a computer and connection to see the true saving or lack of it. I will bet the numbers favor general purpose tech (Frischmann infrastructure ideas may be invoked here).

Digital also is a dream for the look it up model. I disagree with Carr and the Shallows analysis here. Yes, I look up things when on my e-reader (still a Kindle in fact) or online. And guess what I return to the text. I taunt students when they fail to look up words or ideas despite having the Internet at their fingertips almost all the time. To me online resources are great and to be embraced while also addressing the archiving and other issues new technologies raise.

Britannica’s President Jorge Cauz said some interesting and funny things to print junkies, “Everyone will want to call this the end of an era, and I understand that,” Cauz says. “But there’s no sad moment for us. I think outsiders are more nostalgic about the books than I am.” Given that he stated print was “less than 1% of the company’s total sales” he seems wise, and one wonders at why they didn’t kill it sooner. Other curious facts include that the online version is only 15% of revenue and “The other 85% is sales of education products: online learning tools, curriculum products and more.”

Will folks pay for the online version at $70 per year? I would guess not. Nonetheless Cauz claims that people interested in expert opinions will turn to Britannica: “Google’s algorithm doesn’t know what’s fact or what’s fiction,” Cauz concedes. “So Wikipedia is often the No. 1 or No. 2 result on search. But I’d bet a lot of money that most people would rather use Britannica than Wikipedia.” So far the evidence seems to be to the contrary. Wikipedia seems to hold up well. Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy is great too. I have argued that commons-based, Benkler goods could collapse, but for now they seem to be doing well.

So go with God, Britannica. Thank you for the years of service and enhancing my childhood. And congratulations on your new form. Like those in Good To Great, you have ditched the old method and seek to play in the new space. It is a bet, but it you are in the correct game and that is good.


Contracts in the Real World: Ready for Pre-Ordering

This new book on contracts, regaling readers with stories ripped from the headlines, will be published soon and can be pre-ordered now on and other fine booksellers.  

Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts is intended to be a fun, fast, reliable read. It is very useful for 1Ls struggling with the subject, perfect for anyone thinking about going to law school, and designed to entertain devotees of pop culture. It will also captivate experts in contract law by connecting current events with venerable principles and classic cases.

Stories feature such notables as Eminem, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump, and Sandra Bullock, as well as examples such as your cell phone contract, lottery sharing partnership, and on-line privacy policy.

List price is $33. The table of contents follows. 

Read More


UCLA Law Review Vol. 58, Issue 4 (April 2011)

Volume 58, Issue 4 (April 2011)


Digital Exhaustion Aaron Perzanowski & Jason Schultz 889
Fixing Inconsistent Paternalism Under Federal Employment Discrimination Law Craig Robert Senn 947
Awakening the Press Clause Sonja R. West 1025


Still Fair After All These Years? How Claim Preclusion and Issue Preclusion Should Be Modified in Cases of Copyright’s Fair Use Doctrine Karen L. Jones 1071
Patenting Everything Under the Sun: Invoking the First Amendment to Limit the Use of Gene Patents Krysta Kauble 1123


Mechanical Turk, Research Ethics, and Research Assistants

A recent faculty workshop by my witty and brilliant colleague Jonathan Zittrain on “ubiquitous human computing,” (this youtube video captures in a different form what he was talking about ), prompted me to thinking about some ways in which platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, interface with university research and research ethics in interesting ways.

For those unfamiliar, Mechanical Turk allows you to farm out a variety of small tasks (label this image, enter date of this .pdf to a spreadsheet, take a photo of yourself with the sign “will turk for food,” etc) at a price per unit you set. Millions of anonymous users can then do the task for you and collect the bounty, a form of microwork.

As Jonathan detailed, this raises a host of fascinating issues, but I want to focus on two that are closer to bioethics.

First, I have begun to see some legal academics recruiting populations for experimental work using Mechanical Turk, and there is an emerging literature on the pros and cons of subject recruitment from these populations. Are Mechanical Turkers “research subjects” within the legal (primarily the Common Rule if one receives federal funding) or broader ethical sense of the term? Should they be? Take as a tangible example the implicit bias research of the kind Mahzarin R. Banarji has made famous, and imagine it was done over something like Mechanical Turk. How (if at all) should the anonymity of the subject, the lack of subject-experimenter relationship of any sort, the piecemeal nature of the task, etc, change the way an institutional review board reviews the research? It is a mantra in the research ethics community that informed consent is supposed to be a “process” not a document, but how can that process take place in this anonymous static cyberspace environment?

Second, consider research assistance.

Read More


BRIGHT IDEAS: Deborah Rhode’s The Beauty Bias

Oxford University Press has just published Professor Deborah L. Rhode’s newest book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. I got my copy from Amazon on Friday and enjoyed every moment reading it over the weekend.  The book is  illuminating and important: it explores the often unacknowledged, yet pervasive, discrimination against people, particularly women, who don’t conform to mainstream notions of beauty and appearance.   Professor Deborah Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.   She is the one of the country’s leading scholars in legal ethics and gender.  Professor Rhode is incredibly prolific: she has written over 20 books and countless articles.  She is the director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession and a columnist for the National Law Journal.  Before joining the Stanford Law faculty, she was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Lucky for CoOp readers, I had a chance to interview Professor Rhode about The Beauty Bias.  I reproduce our conversation below:

DC:  What prompted you to write this book?

DR:  It partly started with shoes.  I have always viewed women’s footwear design as a haven for closet misogynists;  so much of what they produce is so dysfunctional for its primary purpose—comfortable walking.  Yet in many contexts, including my years as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, I was struck by how often some of the nation’s most prominent,  powerful, and otherwise sensible women were hobbling about  in what we described in high school as “killer shoes.”  They were stranded in cab lines and late for meetings — held back both literally and figuratively — because of shoes.  And inconvenience is the least of the problems. High heels are a major contributor to serious back and foot problems, and four-fifths of women eventually experience such difficulties. A growing percentage are even willing to undergo foot surgery to fit into their designer footwear. I was sufficiently irritated to write an op for the New York Times and it triggered more of a response than probably anything I’ve ever published.

That experience underscored a question  I had long puzzled over.   Of all the inequities that the contemporary women’s movement has targeted, why have those related to appearance shown among the least improvement?  Half of American women report unhappiness with how they look, a figure greater than a quarter century ago. In a country where large percentages of the population can’t afford basic health care, cosmetic surgery is the fastest growing specialty. Our global investment in appearance is over  200 billion, and millions of individuals, particularly women, are paying a huge cost not just in money but in time,  physical health, and psychological well-being.  Discrimination based on appearance, especially weight, is among the most common forms of bias; it is much more frequent and equally arbitrary as many forms of discrimination that are now unlawful. But except in a few jurisdictions, bias based on appearance  is perfectly legal.

DC:  How does this fit into your broader scholarship?

DR:  As a legal academic with a particular interest in  gender equality,  I wanted a better understanding of where our preoccupation with appearance comes from, what costs it imposes, and what could we do about it from a policy perspective.  I’ve always been interested in the gap between our aspirations and achievements  involving social justice in general and women’s rights in particular.  Appearance raises those issues and provides a window on questions involving the law’s capacities and constraints in producing social change. Appearance discrimination has also attracted relatively little public or scholarly attention, and part of the problem  is that so few individuals realize that we have a serious problem.  This project offered the chance to provide the first comprehensive overview of the law in this area, and new  research on the experience  of  the few jurisdictions that explicitly prohibit some form of appearance discrimination.  And because I’m always interested in connecting research to practice,  I tried to write in a way that will be interesting and accessible to a broad public and policy audience.

DC:  Are you hopeful that we might combat this bias?

DR:  I’m optimistic about reform but not naive about what stands in the way. The importance of attractiveness is deeply rooted, and the economic stakes in its pursuit are enormous.  But the costs of  our preoccupation with appearance are also considerable and could be much more fully appreciated.   Many individuals realize that it hurts to be beautiful, but few  realize how much and how many billions are squandered in worthless or unhealthful cosmetic and weight reduction efforts. And even fewer of us realize how much it hurts not to be beautiful, or to conform to culturally prescribed norms that are much more demanding for women than men, and that compound disadvantages based on race, class and ethnicity.  Most Americans have bumped up against some aspect of the problem and might be energized to do something if they came to see this as not just an individual problem but a social injustice and cultural challenge. Read More


Links and short thoughts on Amazonfail

Deven has already mentioned Amazonfail, in which Amazon temporarily delisted all MacMillan books — one-sixth of its inventory — because of a disagreement over Kindle pricing. (MacMillan was tired of Amazon using its books as a loss leader to get folks to buy Kindles).

It’s been interesting to read over folks’ analyses. The best overview comes from Scalzi, who lists seven ways that this was a complete fail on Amazon’s part. There’s also very good analysis from Cory Doctorow; another very good analysis from Tobias Bucknell; yet another very good analysis from Scott Westerfield (and there are more good analyses out there); a funny photoshopped picture at Engadget; and of course calls for revolution from a variety of folks, such as Tobias Bucknell.

At the end of the day, I’m thinking that the critics were right. Amazon apparently can’t be trusted not to do really stupid things, which may seriously harm readers and authors (and publishers with whom Amazon is squabbling). Amazon’s move was really stupid, and puts a major dent in their credibility. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that I read a variety of MacMillan titles, and I own a Kindle — and following this whole kerfuffle, I’m seriously thinking about Apple’s new feminine-products device.