Designing e-Books for Legal Research.

Abstract

In this paper we report the findings from a field study of legal research in a first-tier law school and on the resulting redesign of XLibris, a next-generation e-book. We first characterize a work setting in which we expected an e-book to be a useful interface for reading and otherwise using a mix of physical and digital library materials, and explore what kinds of reading-related functionality would bring value to this setting. We do this by describing important aspects of legal research in a heterogeneous information environment, including mobility, reading, annotation, link following and writing practices, and their general implications for design. We then discuss how our work with a user community and an evolving e-book prototype allowed us to examine tandem issues of usability and utility, and to redesign an existing e-book user interface to suit the needs of law students. The study caused us to move away from the notion of a stand-alone reading device and toward the concept of a document laptop, a platform that would provide wireless access to information resources, as well as support a fuller spectrum of reading-related activities.