First Amendment News

FAN 223: Just Released: Free Speech E-Textbook with Hundreds of Links, Just $2.99

September 11, 2019

This is a special issue of FAN to announce a new book I’ve written with my coauthors identified below. Another issue of FAN will be posted later this week. — RKLC 

Welcome to the new world of electronic textbooks, written in an appealing narrative style, replete with hundreds of text, audio, and video hyperlinks, and at a remarkably low cost.

The just-released e-book is entitled First Things First: A Modern Coursebook on Free Speech Fundamentals (2019) by Ronald Collins, Will Creeley, and David L. Hudson, Jr. with Jackie Farmer. The book was underwritten by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

David L. HudsonDavid L. Hudson

Alternative to Expensive Textbooks. At a time when textbook costs are soaring, First Things First’s offers a radical alternative. Its price ($2.99) is cheaper than even the lowest cost subscription-style services for textbooks. And unlike such services, students get to keep their e-books instead of losing access after a quarter or semester. Bucking the trend of high-cost textbooks, this e-textbook costs less than a latte.

Given the low cost of this e-text, it can be assigned as supplemental materials to complement any other text.

Just the Beginning! “This is just day-one of a far more ambitious project to radically transform the nature and content of college texts (and later, law school casebooks), this while reducing their costs substantially,” said Ronald Collins.

Will CreeleyWill Creeley

Timing: Free Speech on College Campuses. Almost every week, some divisive free speech issue arises on a college campus. No issue is more conflict-ridden than free speech, a topic about which so many students are either uninformed or ill-informed.

“More than ever,” stressed David Hudson, Jr., “there is a vital need to educate college students about the role of free speech and rules of First Amendment law. Our book speaks to that very need in ways both relevant and engaging instead of tedious and disconnected from students’ daily lives.”

Quality Control & Creativity. Written by three First Amendment experts, this e-book breaks new ground both in its content and also in how that content is presented. The tedious form of the traditional college text is replaced by a vibrant and engaging writing style, one particularly designed for college students enhanced by numerous cost-free hyperlinks.

Jackie FarmerJackie Farmer

Beyond providing students with the fundamentals of modern free speech law, First Things First also introduces them to, among other things, cutting-edge free speech issues related to campus speech, “hate speech”, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, advertising, music censorship, and artificial intelligence.

“We aim to engage students by exploring today’s free speech debates,” said Will Creeley, “while simultaneously providing readers with necessary historical context and insight.”

To complement their modern approach, the authors have included:

  • quality and editorial control which is superior to what is offered in many open-source e-textbooks
  • scores of high-resolution photos
  • hundreds of audio and video hyperlinks
  • point-counterpoint discussions revealing both sides of issues, and
  • helpful study-aid summaries.

Advance Praise

“Engaging” is not a word typically used for law textbooks, but First Things First sets the standard for teaching free speech law. A generation of students who have grown up with multimedia will find this textbook compelling. It combines clearly-written case narratives with frequent excursions to a rich trove of other online material—including video and audio files—that provide additional legal and historical context. And all this costs just $2.99, making it a great option for law courses as well as a supporting text that will enrich a wide range of courses in journalism, history, and politics.

Stephen D. Solomon, Professor, NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, founding editor of First Amendment Watch

With admirable clarity and brevity, First Things First covers the field of First Amendment law and theory in a readable and accessible way. Through well-selected case excerpts, insightful and thought-provoking questions, and with clever links to supplemental materials, this innovative book explains not just the fundamentals of First Amendment law, but how we got to where we are, and why. It engages the reader with contemporary problems of free expression “ripped from the headlines” and places these issues in historical context, thus helping cut through the clutter of current political passions. The book’s unprecedented affordability makes it accessible on another level as well—it is a must for any student of the First Amendment.

Robert Corn-Revere (First Amendment lawyer), Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine

First Things First is a welcome newcomer to the collection of casebooks, articles, essays and legal opinions relied upon by those who teach First Amendment principles. Fewer students arrive on our campuses these days with knowledge of First Amendment fundamentals ranging from campus speech, hate speech, obscenity, and religious freedom. Not only is the book’s theoretical approach to teaching these fundamentals refreshingly direct, the content is delivered using cost-effective modes preferred by today’s college students. The audio and video hyperlinks in the e-text make course preparation easier and help professors tie course material to classroom discussion. First Things First is a long-overdue addition to the course materials for students studying law, journalism, history, political science, government and a host of other disciplines.

Lucy A. Dalglish, Dean and Professor Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

First Things First is an incredibly insightful and inviting introduction to U.S. speech and press law. Its approach makes its content completely accessible to beginner and expert alike. But even better, its scores of online links to additional layers of material—including streaming audio and video—make this narrative and case-oriented resource like no other. In addition to teaching the law, the various elements help to reveal what it means to live in a free speech society. First Things First is made for the 21st century student—and professor.

Joseph Russomanno, Professor Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University

This article is part of First Amendment News, an editorially independent publication edited by Professor Ronald K. L. Collins and hosted by FIRE as part of our mission to educate the public about First Amendment issues. Opinions expressed are those of the article's author(s) and may not reflect the opinions of FIRE or of Professor Collins.