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Bluebook Technologies

By Mary Whisner, Published on September 18, 2012

How Do You Like Your Bluebook?

The Bluebook is the standard citation guide for legal materials.1bluebook image

There are now three format choices for the Bluebook: paper, online subscription (since 2008), and—as of August 10, 2012—iPad app.

This article talks about the features and pricing of each.

Print

The print Bluebook is portable (although, at 1 lb. 6 oz., it does add to your load). It is easy to annotate it using pen, pencil, or highlighter. You can create bookmarks with tabs, paper clips, or scraps of paper.

bluebook image

It costs $34 from the publisher (a partnership of four law reviews), a little more from Amazon. You might be able to pick up a used copy.

You local law library surely has a copy and likely has multiple copies handy for your use. Using a library is free, but you probably can't check out the Bluebook because it's a reference item, so you can't take it with you and you shouldn't annotate it or stick in a bunch of tabs.

Online

To use the online version, you need to pay a subscription fee ($32 for one year, $42 for two years, or $50 for three years). You log in each time you use it.

You can use it anywhere you have Web access. Here is what a page looks like online:

bluebook image



You can use the table of contents, which displays as a navigation bar on the left. The index has hypertext links to the rules. And you can also search. You can create bookmarks and notes. For instance, here are notes I've inserted showing how Washington courts and practitioners cite Washington materials differently from the Bluebook model.

bluebook image



Your annotations are searchable along with the text of the Bluebook itself.

There's an option to set up a group for sharing annotations. This could come in handy within a journal or practice group.

iPad App

Rulebook is an app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Users download the app free and then pay for content, including federal court rules and rules from some state courts (e.g., CA and NY). Each set of rules is generally fairly cheap (e.g., $1.99 or $2.99). You can get the U.S. Constitution free.

One cool feature is being able to search across content: e.g., searching the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure at the same time.

Last month, rulebook released a licensed version of the Bluebook, for $39.99.

Here's what a page looks like:

bluebook image

You can use the table of contents, which displays as a navigation bar on the left. The index has hypertext links to the rules. And you can also search. You can highlight passages:

bluebook image

You can create bookmarks and notes. The notes display as tiny yellow sticky notes that you have to tap on in order to read. For instance, here is the page where I've noted showing how Washington courts and practitioners cite Washington materials differently from the Bluebook model. I circled the yellow notes so you could see them.

bluebook image

Here's what I see when I open up the first note:

bluebook image 

My annotations do not appear to be searchable. Annotation can't be shared with other users. This app is very new. As I've explored it, I have emailed the developer with suggestions. Already, there has been a new release, and more improvements are on the way. For instance, one feature on the developer's list is sharing annotations.

Comparison Chart

Feature Print Online App Library copy
Price ~$34 $32/1 yr
$42/2 yr
$50/3 yr
$39.99 free (to you)
Portability 1 lb. 6 oz. On web On device Library use only
TOC Yes Yes (navigation bar) Yes (navigation bar) Yes
Index Yes Yes (with hyperlinks) Yes (with hyperlinks) Yes
Annotate Yes Yes, searchable
Can hide or display in text.
Can share with other subscribers.
Yes, but not searchable (yet)
Displays as sticky note.
Can't share (yet).
No
Bookmark Yes Yes Yes No
Highlight Yes No Yes No
Searchable Only by flipping
and skimming
Yes Yes Only by flipping
and skimming

Which version you choose depends on your budget and your work preferences. I use a print copy at my desk, but the iPad app will be very convenient when I am working at home or in a coffee shop.

Re-published with the author's permission - originally posted on Gallagher Blogs.

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1. This article starts from that premise. Of course, there are other citation rules, set by courts, publishers, and others. See Peter W. Martin, Who Sets Citation Norms, in Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (online ed. 2011). The Bluebook is dominant in law schools and is used by most law reviews. For Bluebook basics, see Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, Bluebook 101. For reflections on the Bluebook, see Mary Whisner, The Dreaded Bluebook, 100 Law Libr. J. 393 (2008).