I get sent books from time to time to review for my Landlord-Law site and I recently received a copy of Regulating Conditions in the Private Rented Sector: A Practical Guide, by Caroline Hunter and Andrew Dymond from Arden Chambers published by Thomson/Sweet & Maxwell. I was quite looking forward to receiving this, as the authors are distinguished lawyers and it is an area of law which I write about quite a lot. However although it will undoubtedly be a very useful book for me which I expect I will use a lot, I am a bit disappointed.
My main gripe is that virtually half of the book is appendices, most of which are extracts from statutes. However is there really any need for statutes to be reproduced in text books any more, in this age of online legislation? Particularly since the UK Statute Law Database has been published (although admittedly it would not have been made public when this book went to press).
At £85 this is not a cheap book. It is about an inch thick and on first glance you might think, “OK, eighty five quid for an inch thick book of analysis on a new area of law from specialist counsel, that’s acceptable”. But is it acceptable to be paying effectively forty pounds for a reproduction of statutes which you can get free on the internet? It would be very easy just to have a list of relevant statutes and the url of the Statute Law Database and leave it to the reader to look them up. This book is after all aimed at the professional legal market, virtually all of whom will (or should) have broadband on their desktop computers and probably also their laptops. But if the statutes were eliminated, would we still feel happy about paying eighty five pounds for a slim volume of just half an inch thick? Probably not.
The internet is changing everything. I suspect that lawyers, a deeply traditional species mostly still steeped in paperwork and pink tape, will one day wake up to fact that legal publishers are charging a fortune for something they can now get easily for free, and refuse to pay any more. However this may not be until the younger solicitors trained on computers and the internet start to make partner status.