Print Is Dead… Deal With It?


One of the listservs I joined early in my law library career was Teknoids (way back in 1997 or 1998.) Although it is made up primarily of techies in law school libraries and IT departments, I still love the conversations that go on. The conversation on what was titled "Everybody's Favorite Topic…" was on what law schools will do since Westlaw is no longer going to support free printing for students, but will leave the printers for the law schools as a gift, just in case they want to pick up the tab for students printing out cases. Paul Birch from the University of Richmond School of Law (at the request of my fellow AALL member, Joyce Janto) started the conversation by asking if others would share their up-to-date printing policies. Judging by the title of the email, however, it seemed that Paul knew the conversation would take on a life of its own… and it did. I especially like the idea that John Mayer throws out (half-joking/half-serious) about moving off print completely and just giving students a Kindle to send their print to via PDF and email.

You can read through the whole conversation here, but I thought I'd post a few highlights that were interesting to me:

  • Cyndi Johnson: Since I'm sure Lexis will follow suit and pull their printers too, I'm going to start discussions with the relevant parties (SBA, the Dean, etc) about our options. Our students pay a technology fee which gives them 600-pages of printing per semester with all clinic, research assistant, journals, and moot court jobs waived. Anything above that is paid at $.05/page. We are pretty firm about not crediting Westlaw/Lexis jobs that were printed on their printers unless the printers are down. I've talked to the faculty teaching legal research and they stress not printing every page when doing research but it happens.
  • John Mayer: 600 free pages valued at $.05 per page = $30. Times three years of law school = $90. Ergo, buy everyone a Kindle (http://cca.li/bd) when they arrive and send all print jobs to PDF and email it to their Kindle.
  • David Dickens:
  • Gary Moore: We give the students 2400 pages for an entire academic year and a number of their texts are already available on e-reader. I still have some students telling me it's not enough pages. It's not dead. It fact it may be undead. The print zombie and right out of a George Romero movie, it's going to take some time before you can kill them all.
  • John Mayer: 2400 x $.05 x 3 years = $360 - you could buy them a Kindle Fire (or almost an Ipad!) Make them sign a contract that if you give them the ereader, they won't print or charge the ereader people who print 10 cents a page.  Use the invisible hand of economics!
  • Tom Bruce: That's a Dada-ist art thing, right? Ceci n'est pas un pipe?
  • Ken Hirsh: Wouldn't it be more apropos for someone to bludgeon you with an Epson FX-80? Although the trail of discarded perforated paper edge would give the CSI team quite a head start.
  • Jonathan Ezor: *cue Roger Daltrey scream*
  • Gary Moore: [trying (and succeeding) to bring the conversation back from pop-culture references] If no longer allow free pages and you charge for printing, then they will ask what is the tech fee for then, which, of course,  it is for other things like labs and exam software (both heavily used by students).  Some will respond “I already use my own laptop to print and don’t use the lab”. …
    If you go completely print free, then there are other issues, like what material is allowed in an exam (that also means the exam software companies need to catch up) and lot of other administrative issues.  It also means that all materials will be e-reader accessible.  It also means do we require students to own a laptop/tablet (we don’t have a requirement now, though 95% of our students take exams on computer). …
    We, meaning IT directors, can spearhead the charge to go print free and use e-readers, or not allow “free printing” any more, but it requires a major commitment from everyone at a school (faculty, admin and students) and a full support structure, if you go the way of a required standard tablet.   Also, everyone must be willing to deal with the repercussions and be committed to not revert back.
  • Ken Hirsh: I’m not advocating going print-free.  I am saying Westlaw’s (or more accurately, TR’s) action is not a valid reason to increase either the amount of free printing or tech fees.  Students don’t want to pay more in tuition or fees.  Don’t make them.  Let them use market behavior to decide what to print.
  • Gary Moore: But John is right that the use of Kindle Fires/IPads are on the rise and a lot of the texts are available for those.  We have to seriously rethink how students access their material and actually support that use, because that is the way to go.
    However, there are a lot of things that go along with that commitment.
  • Phil Bohl: 
    MONEY?
    Our students do not pay a technology fee. … Our biggest obstacle in pushing out our printers and adopting the digital copiers has been on the cost recovery side.
    Since we own and manage the printers and the print management system we can set any price and apply any subsidy, no real dollars are involved until students use up their initial print credit.  Then they pay for every page by purchasing a block of print credit; minimum of $10.
    With the copiers [maintained by Cannon], it's all real money and to provide a print credit to each student would require transferring funds from our account to the university's central IT budget.  …  So about three years ago we started raising our prices and lowering the print credit amount each year to make it possible for us to eventually phase out the subsidy for student printing.
    REDUCE DEMAND?
    [W]e redoubled our efforts to make students aware of the millions of pages they were consuming.  Following a modest campaign,  print volume dropped significantly …
    With such a huge reduction in student printing, this may be less painful that we first thought. At the same time, over the past five years we have seen our library copier volume go down to nearly nothing.  I'd wager that initially part of that volume was shifted to the printers but not all of it.  With more materials born digital or digitally accessible, copiers are nearly anachronistic for most of what goes on in our library.  We have also added a KIC station which has further reduced copier volume — and adds to our list of popular services.
    All that said, I think we can (in time) gingerly transition both the lexis and westlaw print volume onto our digital copiers with students paying the freight.  I'll really miss the paper.
  • Ben Chapman: We tried and failed to phase out our $35 per year print subsidy last year. I'm hoping that we can have better luck doing that this year. Obviously, the change in Westlaw's print policies doesn't help at all. Here's one of the things that I've been thinking about: what if we provided them with better tools to read, write, and organize the buckets of material that they get, along with tools that help faculty distribute electronic materials with less pain. I'm wondering if we can use that to justify a reduction or elimination of the print subsidy. So, maybe the discussion is not really about student printing – maybe it's more about what are we doing to smooth the transition to a paperless law school:
  1. We need ways to make epub, PDF, and other etexts easier to distribute to students. Emory has a great ereserves system that helps with that currently; unfortunately, I hear that it's old and no longer developed and they may retire it. That will mean that more ematerials will wind on up Blackboard, which never seems to be the students' first choice.
  2. We have purchased a subscription to FileOpen http://www.fileopen.com/, which helps manage PDF DRM. While we are not generally fans of DRM, it's helpful in situations where students need access to particular resources for a particular period of time (moot court briefs, for example). As a side-effect of the DRM, we can prevent (stop your snickering, Tom Ryan) most casual printing and copying.
  3. We've put in two DLSG KIC scanners (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UO68IT1QIE) to encourage people to make electronic copies of things.
  4. I'm considering funding the purchase of tools like Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php) to help students organize digital materials more easily. We do not yet provide Microsoft Office for free to students, although there is talk of that.
  5. The University (as part of a new Internet2 initiative) is pursuing the idea of Box.net integration with 50GB per account.
  6. The University is investing in Blackboard and the 9.1 update is coming in May.
  7. We preach the gospel of Evernote and Dropbox regularly.

The conversation is still going on, and is interesting to follow, not just from the view of law school IT, but also to think about how these students are taught about the different print alternatives that are out there, and what type of experiences they will be coming to the law firms once they graduate.