am delighted that the Akron Law Review is devoting an entire Special Issue to commentaries on my 1996 Web-posted article, Last Writes? Re-assessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace. As Editor-in-Chief Mark Whitt observes in the Editor's Note prefacing this collection, "we are standing at a threshold and must look into the future of law reviews - whatever the future may hold."
[n.1] While it is certainly true that writing the present response to the commentaries has afforded me a welcome opportunity to elaborate, develop and defend a number of arguments I originally made in Last Writes?, I would like to emphasize - contrary to certain suggestions in the Editor's Epilogue - that the exercise has not prompted me to change my original position. In Last Writes? I made a case for legal scholars taking "complete control" of the production and dissemination of their own work by self-publishing their scholarship on the World Wide Web, ideally depositing it with or linking it to a central archive or databank to be organized by the Association of American Law Schools or some other co-ordinating institution. In Yesterday Once More I note that law professors wishing (and perhaps needing) editorial help in a self-publishing system might turn to student research assistants or other in-house employees. Having and/or using such a support structure hardly diminishs authors' control over their final products. It would be up to the individual author to seek help or not to seek help, depending on her talents and circumstances; it would be up to the author to pick the best "editor" available; and it would be up to the author - as the only party with her hands on the (electronic) levers of publication - to definitively accept suggested changes, or reject them (the current law review system denies authors the first two of these opportunities, and sometimes - to the chagrin and embarrassment of more than a few authors - even denies them the third). This potential and limited delegation of editorial tasks (or for that matter, other subordinate functions, all the way up to and including HTML coding) is not at all antithetical to self-publishing: while that strategy makes authors full responsible for creating and disseminating their own work, it does not demand (pace its detractors) that authors do everything by themselves. In this context, the claim that my consideration of the editorial options available to self-publishers constitutes an alteration or attenuation of my argument for legal scholars assuming complete control of their scholarship is unfounded.
[n.2] Even leaving this point of contention aside, however, does not the mere elaboration of my arguments in this Special Issue of the Akron Law Review - undeniably shaped by the commentaries of the other contributors - provide unimpeachable evidence of the value of traditional law reviews? The answer to this question is simple: not exactly. In his Epilogue, the Editor-in-Chief of the Akron Law Review is absolutely correct to point to the intellectual and rhetorical benefits of the publication process, but that process - in both its constituent aspects of deliberation and (re-)articulation - is not unique to print in general, or to law reviews in particular. In an electronic self-publishing system such as I envisage, various forms of feedback - e-mail, listserv discussions and self-published formal commentaries or retorts - might easily prompt an author to write a follow-up article (or, for that matter, revise an original piece) developing (and in some cases even re-evaluating) arguments he or she made previously. Even in the present instance, my own thinking on Last Writes? has been influenced not only by the formal, now-printed commentaries appearing in this collection, but also by numerous e-mails from legal scholars, information scientists and other academics from around the world, extended electronic discussions on several listservs, and one self-published article which will eventually be printed in another law review. In an electronic self-publishing system, the time delay between readers' reaction and author's response might well be even less than it was here (making that response even more "topical"), the range of commentators on a specific piece might be far wider (potentially improving the quality of any response by opening up the debate to scholars and other experts not invited to participate in a particular "symposium"), and the chances for an author to actually make a formal response in the first place would be far greater (no longer depending on the good offices of a law review to provide a venue for the exercise). In this respect, as in so many other contexts, the Internet represents not a danger but an opportunity. Far from constituting a threat to time-honored publication practices, it offers legal scholars a medium for communicating and debating in new, exciting and arguably better ways.
[n.3] Last but certainly not least, readers of the electronic edition of this Special Issue should take note of one interesting and perhaps ironic fact. What you are now reading - albeit linked from the official Akron Law Review Web site and cite-checked by the Akron Law Review staff - is essentially a self-published article (posted on my local server here at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law) pointedly different in form and style from the articles of the other contributors to this collection. The fact that it is self-published has given me the freedom to present it entirely on my terms, not to mention the freedom to have (at least vis-à-vis the print version of this Special Issue) the last word in this intriguing debate. Perhaps by agreeing to this mutually-convenient arrangement the Editorial Board of the Akron Law Review is pointing the way to a future in which traditional law reviews simply "link" to selected electronically self-published articles, but do not literally "publish" those themselves. At the end of the day, however, one wonders whether such a strategy - representing an enlightened compromise between institutional self-interest and authorial control - would prove the salvation of the law review, or would denote its practical demise . . . .
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