Using a text book with Best Practices in mind

When was the last time you had to read a case book in a subject you knew nothing about? If it’s been a while, I recommend you try it.  Multiply that experience by four.  Add to that experience the practice of daily carrying 20 pounds of dead weight. Then pay $500. I don’t know about you, but I am tired and drained already.

Consider the case book.  Most are really long. The font is small and the margins narrow. There are really long horizontal lines of text. There is little white space. Notes and footnotes are in even smaller font. What is important? The notes or the main text? How do either relate to practice?

I don’t teach civil procedure, so I can’t talk about the merits of this text but I just got a peak of a new, cool, reader-friendly civ pro text. Just opening it up made my heart lift, my eyes smile. Lots of white space.  Clear headings. Practice pointers. In addition to black letters and off white paper there was….drum roll…light blue! Soft, serene and welcoming. (Being a visual learner and a nut for color, one of the things I really disliked in law school was all the dense text and endless black and white palette.)

People who are in the business of selling text – think magazines – know about text and font and color. They know what readers are willing to pay money for. They have columns. Text boxes. Color. Graphic designs that draw in the reader with pithy quotes or provocative excerpts. Pictures.

When I was in law school, I remember hearing that nearly all of us would either be wearing glasses by time we graduated. If we were already wearing glasses, we were likely to need a stronger prescription.  Perhaps reading lots of dense text might have something to do with this. Even if not, more visually-friendly text could help reduce stress, tension and fatigue.

If you are considering adopting a new text, consider the student reader. Consider what texts you like to read. Are there connections?

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