Kindling Medical Texts
Kindle is Amazon.com's e-book reader which according to various market reports has been flying off of Amazon’s shelves. Released November 2007 the first Kindles were sold out after five and half hours, even with $399 price tag. Kindle users can download content from Amazon.com's Kindle store and Amazon offers an service that converts HTML, Word docs, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP to Kindle format (AZW). Audiobooks in MP3, Audible, and Audiobooks can be listened to on Kindle through USB or SD card.
So why does this matter to me the medical librarian? Well in last few weeks I have been running across some interesting blog posts, articles and other bits of information that mention the use of Kindles in the medical community.
John Halamka, CIO and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, mentions implementing Kindle support for all of their 20,000 educational resources and HMS on his blog, The Health Care Blog. You read that right, twenty thousand. Users enter their Kindle account into the MyCourses Kindle set page and can click on any "My Kindle" resource to sent to the device.
That is all fine and dandy but if the publishers have got to be on board, because if there isn't any medical content then there is going to be little use for them in a medical institution. The good news is, publishers are coming to Kindle. According to Inside Higher ED, Princeton University Press, Yale University Press, Oxford University Press, University of California Press are all publishing books available through Kindle. Additionally, CNET reports that Amazon is working on new models of to support the academic side of things.
Just browsing the medical subject section of the Kindle Store there are already quite a few books that are found in academic medical libraries and hospital libraries.
- First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK
- Pulmonary Physiology
- Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, Self-Assessment and Board Review
- Emergency Medicine Oral Board Review : Pearls of Wisdom
- Cardiac Surgery in the Adult
- Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Exam Review : Pearls of Wisdom
- McGraw-Hill Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
- Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics
Browse the Kindle Store for medical titles isn't the best. There are a lot of consumer health titles intermixed with medical texts and sometimes you have to watch out for the edition. While many of the titles appeared to be the most recent there are a few listed which have more current editions in print. For example Surgical Anatomy and Technique: A Pocket Manual, this Kindle book is for the 1994 edition, but the most recent version is actually the 2000 edition.
Of course at $399 a pop, plus the cost of the Kindle book, could be an awful pricey ebook model. Kindle is also a closed device. That means only Kindle books work on Kindles. So what does that mean to libraries who subscribe to various ebook collections through other vendors such as Ovid, Springer, Rittenhouse, Unbound Medicine? I don't know. My guess is that those couldn't be converted to be read on the Kindle. (Please anybody more familiar with ebook correct me if I am wrong or feel free to elaborate more.) Not only are the price and the format a possible barrier for adoption within medical libraries, there are some that believe Stanza and the iPhone might actually kill the Kindle.
A recent Forbes article reported the iPhone is more popular than Kindle and with the new Stanza application (freely available on Apple's iPhone Apps Store) is entering into Kindle's territory as a competing device. The iPhone App Store reports Stanza has been downloaded more than 395,000 time and is installed at a rate of 5,000 copies per day. The Forbes article reports that Citigroup estimates that Amazon will sell around 380,000 Kindles in 2008. Jane McEntegart on Tom's Guide thinks the growth of Stanza is due in part to iPhone's already strong popularity and the fact the iPhone is more versatile than Kindle. "For a start, the iPhone does the three things Apple feels everyone sees as a necessity: Phone, Internet, mp3 player. Phone calls, mobile browsing and music are all mandatory and any of the third party applications available from the App Store are extras you can add on if you want them. If you want Tetris, you can have Tetris, if you don’t, no one is going to try and sell it to you. The Kindle does one thing and some think that’s where it falls down."
Stanza and its books are currently free, which is another reason why you see so many downloads. Yours truly downloaded Stanza on to the sparkly new iPhone. Where Stanza falls for medical libraries is the book selection. Currently Stanza does not yet support books encumbered with Digital Rights Management. Most medical books are not free and have copyright and digital rights associated with them. According to the Forbes article Marc Prudhommeaux, Lexcycle chief executive, is working on deals with major publisher to provide newer ebooks for a fee. He claims, that once that happens the iPhone users will be able to shop, buy and read books just like they do with Kindle.
So what is a medical librarian to do? It is very confusing. But it is definitely something to keep an eye on and keep in the back of your brain. It has the potential to add another layer to ebooks.