I really enjoyed my business law course, even though it was only a "survey" of the topic. I have a renewed admiration for the legal profession. I think one of my most useful takeaways from this course, in addition to what I learned about business law, was learning how to use the IRAC format to analyze cases. This is a great critical thinking tool that can be applied to almost any situation.
With respect to the photo above, the doctrine of First Sale permits me to do whatever I want with the physical book that I purchased - except for copying it. The Fair Use Exemption of the Copyright Law, however, provides guidelines for whether (or not) a copyrighted work may be copied without the permission of the copyright holder. Basically, there are four elements to the fair use consideration. These are: Purpose, Nature, Amount, and Effect. I believe that I made a compelling case that scanning my legally acquired (that is, paid for) textbook for my own personal noncommercial use, sufficiently meets the criteria to fall within the fair use exemption. *
Scanning a book is not for everyone. I outlined the process I used to make a digital version of my textbook. While the processed worked very well, you have to really want to have your book in digital form to go through the effort of scanning it. In my case, this was a part of a larger experiment to see if I could survive an 8-week course without the use of paper, pens, or books. It worked. I did. (I did print copies of my final paper for final review and editing on the night before I handed in my paper, but that's it.) I see that Tracy, over at Student Tablet PC recently blogged about her approach to book scanning. I prefer not to destroy my book in the process. I paid over $150 for my book and I'm not about to tear it up. It's going on my bookshelf in my library. Even though I'm increasingly digital, I still enjoy looking at and holding a real book now and then.
It would be much easier if publishers would simply make their materials available for sale in PDF form so that they can be searched and marked up on Acrobat. Considering that my textbook cost me over $150 and the time and effort to scan it only added to the cost, I would gladly have paid a fee in addition to my book's purchase price to receive a CD with the electronic version of the text along with my book. Publishers, are you listening?
Michael Hyatt's been blogging lately about the death of traditional book publishing and how publishers need to wake up to the call for electronic versions of their holdings. I'm glad to see Michael leading the charge on this. I think this is a good move for publishers and consumers, both. Many publishers are beginning to offer electronic versions of their materials. I excited to see this. I hope that they stick with PDF as a format. While I'm willing to pay dead-tree prices to purchase a PDF that I know I can reference in the future, I'm not willing to do the same for a proprietary format.
In the end, I think that I received benefit in knowledge and experience that made this experiment worthwhile. I proved to myself that I could get through an eight week class, using only my Tablet PC. For me, this exercise was a resounding success.
I really appreciate the comments and advice offered by many of the people I met along the way, including publishers, authors, and even a few attorneys. This was an informative and valuable research experience. Most of the people I contacted responded - either with a blog entry or a personal email. I'm disappointed that the publisher of the book that I chose for this experiment - McGraw-Hill - did not even acknowledge my written request for information and comment on this issue. Even the U.S. Copyright office and the Copyright Clearance center wrote back to me, first with automated responses, then with a follow-up e-mail. Oh well. My paper's done. It would have been nice to have included their comments in my paper.
What about my paperless challenge?
As far as my paperless challenge, it was a success I've been collecting my thoughts on this experience in a mind map to use, perhaps in a future blog or podcast on this topic. Perhaps when Michael gets back from his vacation.
Do I plan to continue with my paperless challenge? Yes, I do. When I started, I was a bit skeptical; OK I was very skeptical. First for whether it would work and, more important, whether I would stick with it long enough to find out. I'm glad that I did. I don't think it's really practical to go 100% paperless, but I do think that I can quickly take the lesson's I've learned to hit the 80% mark over what I did in my pre-Tablet PC days.
I would like to hear about how you are using technology to reduce your paper utilization. Comments and ideas welcome!
Obligatory disclaimer: I'm not an attorney, nor am I offering any legal advice by sharing my paperless challenge and experience scanning my course textbook. If you'd like to understand more about the Copyright Law and the Fair Use exemption, here's a helpful web site. I will offer this advice; I encourage you to consult this checklist from the Copyright management center of Indiana University (or an attorney) before scanning any books to see if your intended application falls within the Fair Use Exemption..