The Open Casebook series will make first-year law school texts more accessible to students across the United States
Together, the MIT Press and Harvard Law School Library announce the launch of the Open Casebook series. Leveraging free and open texts created and updated by distinguished legal scholars, the series offers high-quality yet affordable printed textbooks for use in law teaching across the country, tied to online access to the works and legal opinions under open licenses.
The first book in the series is Torts! by Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Jordi Weinstock, Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. Torts! serves as primary text for a first-year law school torts course. Taken together, the cases within the book show differing approaches to the problems of defining legal harm and applying those definitions to a messy world.
“We’ve long thought of casebook curricular materials as ‘playlists,’ able to be shared, reordered, and incrementally adapted online among communities of teachers for their specific teaching needs and perspectives,” Zittrain said. “The MIT Press is producing easy-to-obtain, significantly lower priced books that represent one-stop snapshots of the online materials generated in these open and flexible ways.”
“In Torts!, we used that flexibility to present cases to students in a different way than in classic casebooks,” Weinstock said. “We are big believers that students should have as much original context as possible when evaluating a case, and as such we have included significantly more of the original judicial opinion than is traditionally offered to the students. When there are edits we show the students exactly where those edits have been made, and how they can see what has been excised through the Open Casebook website. Throughout the book, Torts! features helpful reminders, questions, and illustrations to bring these original materials to life. The sum is a casebook that neatly encapsulates a first year Harvard Law Torts class syllabus and can be read from cover to cover.”
The Open Casebook series leverages free and open texts created by distinguished legal scholars on Harvard’s H2O platform. Created by Harvard Law School’s Library Innovation Lab, H2O facilitates the building, sharing, and remixing of open-access digital textbooks, with cases drawn from the Lab’s companion Caselaw Access Project, which scanned and made freely available access to all American case law. Authors can create their own original books with H2O, finding, and adapting existing texts to refine and build upon one another’s work.
“As the creator of some of the earliest open online books and communities, the MIT Press is committed to increasing the impact and accessibility of scholarship,” noted Amy Brand, Director and Publisher, the MIT Press. “We are proud to collaborate with Harvard Law School Library on the Open Casebook series and provide high quality, low-cost books to law students throughout the United States.”
The Open Casebook series will include textbooks for all standard first year law school courses, including upcoming publications on the subjects of Contracts and Corporations. A digital version of each casebook can be found for free on opencasebook.org.
Kate Silverman Wilson
Community and Resource Development Associate
The MIT Press
Established in 1962, the MIT Press is one of the largest and most distinguished university presses in the world and a leading publisher of books and journals at the intersection of science, technology, art, social science, and design. MIT Press books and journals are known for their intellectual daring, scholarly standards, interdisciplinary focus, and distinctive design.
The Harvard Law School Library supports the learning, research and teaching needs of the HLS community and a global community of researchers through engagement with expert staff and an unparalleled collection of global legal materials. In the midst and wake of massive technological transformation, the Harvard Law School Library contributes to their community by curating and preserving vital information and exploring open source ways to do so, including the H2O Open Casebook.