C.R.S. Ebooks Coming Soon to an iPad Near You

by Jennifer G. Gilroy, Revisor of Statutes

Colorado’s laws will continue to be published in the familiar red books, but soon you will also be able to download the Colorado Revised Statutes in a digital format compatible with your electronic reader, tablet, or other handheld electronic device. This past September, the General Assembly’s ten-member Committee on Legal Services carefully considered each aspect of the four bids it received as a result of a request for proposals to publish Colorado’s law issued earlier in the summer. The competitive bid process, required by state law and the Colorado constitution, must occur at least once every ten years, and the last time the publications contract was put to bid was in 2001. Consider how significantly the world of publishing has changed in the last decade. Just ten years ago terms such as “smart phone”, “iPad”, and “Droid” didn’t even exist, and the words “application” and “app” were certainly not synonymous with a completely new form of palm-sized digital publication. Ten years ago, if a state simply made its statutes available to the public on the Internet, it was considered technologically savvy.

However, in 2012, the demand for downloadable digital publication is undeniable. The problem, however, is how to meet the expectations of an increasingly tech-savvy public and responsibly publish the state’s laws in a format compatible with available technology without causing additional cost to the state. To meet this need head on, the Committee required the successful contractor to have the capability and willingness to work with the Committee to develop and promote Colorado’s statutes in electronic formats usable with today’s electronic devices — all within the competitive contract price. While each bid that the Committee received offered unique advantages, ultimately the Committee selected LexisNexis as the contract publisher. One appealing feature of LexisNexis’s bid was that it had already begun developing ebooks of the Colorado law.

While the project is still in the design and development stage, LexisNexis is working with the Committee and the Office of Legislative Legal Services to design the functionality, features, and touch-screen capabilities that will be most useful and desirable to the public. In fact, members of the Committee will be beta-testing the design over the first quarter of 2012 on iPads lent to them by LexisNexis. While the new LexisNexis contract will not go into effect until January of 2013, the development of C.R.S. ebooks has been so attractive and the progress so expedited that it appears likely the ebooks will be available prior to that date.

Of course, Colorado is not the only state developing downloadable digital files of its statutes for use with today’s handheld technology. In a recent NCSL LegisBrief article, State Statutes Go Mobile, author Kae Warnock identifies six states that provide their statutes in formats that can be used with handheld devices. These products allow the users “to download compatible versions to their iPads or electronic reading devices like Kindles or even smaller devices such as iPhones and smartphones.” The article also identifies two other states that have created mobile applications that permit users to search for a statute by keyword, which statute then appears in a specially formatted size for the screen of a handheld device.

It is important to note, however, that despite the future availability of the Colorado statutes in an ebook format, the only “official” version of Colorado’s law — the only version a court of record may take judicial notice of — will still remain exclusively the red printed and bound books. The Internet and other digital formats provide a convenience to the consumer, but ultimately, only the books will provide the authentic and reliable source of the state’s law.