BY JOEY SEILER
In January, the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy became the first legal journal in the country to offer an edition in the Amazon Kindle Market alongside its physical edition.
Volume 34, Issue 1 is currently on sale for 99 cents and has done quite well on the Market, Managing Editor Adam Botzenhart ’11 said in an e-mail to the Record. The Kindle version peaked at No. 1 in Amazon’s Jurisprudence section, No. 3 in the Constitutional Law section, and No. 16 in Amazon’s overall Law section of the Kindle Market. The journal had no way to notify its readers of the offering, said Botzenhart, so the only publicity came from a mention on the Volokh Conspiracy law blog.
With 11,000 subscribers to the physical edition — all Federalist Society members receive an automatic subscription — the journal doesn’t seem to be hurting for readers. Botzenhart says the new offering is a service to both readers and authors, though.
“Our thinking was that readers should have as many choices as possible in terms of how they consume the Journal,” he explained. “I really enjoy the Kindle. I’ve heard and read some law professors and judges mention how they prefer reading on the Kindle because they can enlarge the font and so forth. And so we figured, why not give readers the additional option of reading a Kindle version?”
Likewise, he said, authors benefit by having a wider reach. Botzenhart points to an article from the latest issue, “What is Marriage,” that has drawn popular media attention as well as more than 26,000 downloads from SSRN.
“We think our content can appeal to a broad audience, and by making the issue available for only 99 cents on the Amazon marketplace (this is the lowest price Amazon will allow us to offer it), we hope to reach a wider audience,” explained Botzenhart. “Our authors produce great content, and we think more people should have access to it.”
Other journals may be following suit. While Harvard’s Journal of Law and Technology Editor in Chief Lee Baker ’11 said it hadn’t occurred to him previously to put out a Kindle edition of JOLT, the journal will likely look into the possibility for future editions. Botzenhart said the Harvard International Law Journal has contacted him to learn more and that he has been working with members of the University of Chicago Law Review members to guide them through the conversion process.
While Botzenhart thinks the second Kindle issue will be easier to produce, he doesn’t believe the electronic version will replace physical journals for some time.
“I don’t think physical issues will continue forever — they’re too expensive to produce and distribute. But I don’t think the Kindle is an adequate, full-on replacement yet,” he said. “To be sure, there are a lot of benefits to Kindle versions. It’s zero marginal cost distribution, it’s more environmentally friendly, [and] it offers some useful features not available with traditional books.”
For now, the journal is focused on improving the experience and exploring other options, like the Nook, Botzenhart said. The Bluebook doesn’t include a form for citing the Kindle’s “locations,” which it uses instead of page numbers. The JLPP will provide an option for pinciting similar to Westlaw’s [*numbers] system corresponding to the physical edition’s page numbers.
“Also, the second time around we’re focusing on getting the word out,” said Botzenhart. “Really the only announcement of the Kindle version was a blog post of the Volokh Conspiracy and a link on the JLPP website. We don’t have an email list of a subscribers or a cheap, low cost way to communicate with them. For Issue Two, we’re looking into including a mailer with the Journal, letting the reader know about the Kindle version.”