The Mobile Web Is Not An Alternative

Wednesday’s post on medinfo alerted me to this interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “As the Web Goes Mobile, Colleges Fail to Keep Up.”  The article states that more and more college students access the web using the mobile devices.  From the graph in the article, in 2010 43% of college students use mobile devices daily to access the Internet compared to 10.2% in 2008.  That is a huge jump in mobile web usage.  Yet according to the article many colleges “treat their mobile web sites as low-stakes experiments.” 

Of course right away my mind is thinking, “If colleges are treating the mobile web as a low stake experiment, what are the libraries doing?”  Depending on the library’s relationship with the college, it may beholden to the college IT department or it may have its own IT department.  That relationship will help drive a lot of the mobile web direction.  However, what is also driving the libraries’ mobile web direction are the library resource vendors.  How many ILS systems have GOOD mobile web platforms?  In the days of shrinking budgets (state and institutional) how affordable is it to add these ILS companies’ mobile platform to the library’s system?  How can a library justify that extra cost when it is faced with a flat or shrinking budget and may have to cut journals, books, hours, staff, etc? 

How many databases and online books are available/optimized for mobile devices?  Let’s ignore the Nook and Kindle like devices, students ARE NOT using them as mobile devices.  They aren’t carrying them around all the time like they are their smart phones.  They are going to use their smart phones to order Chipotle, text a friend about meeting up or an upcoming test, then they are using it to do research (usually on Google) to find a title/resource and read it.  So how many online medical text books are smart phone optimized?  Not many.

Libraries are beholden to not only their institution’s response to the mobile web but also to their own profession’s resource vendors’ response.  I remember talking to one rather high ranking sales rep for a major medical database/journal/online book provider.  I asked him if his company had created an mobile optimized version of their search database and whether there were plans to gradually optimize their many online books and journals.  He said that quite frankly that he couldn’t see why anybody would want to search that way or read an article or book chapter that way.  He didn’t see as important.  That was about a year ago.  I was gracious and said that I don’t think that way of searching and reading is for everyone but I see it as a large growth area and I know we would eventually get people asking about it.  

Well guess what Mr. Sales rep, the college students of today are my residents and staff physicians of tomorrow.  They are also the current users of your products in college libraries NOW.  Their mobile web usage has jumped tremendously and you along with the libraries are missing out.  If my users don’t usage statistics on your resources drop below a certain line, guess what we drop your resources.  If people aren’t accessing your resources that I subscribe to because they aren’t mobile friendly and they are using the mobile devices, your usage statistics will drop.  How far?  Is it below that magic dropping line?  I don’t know but usage won’t grow, and you and I both want usage to grow.

Just to be fair, NLM’s PubMed smart phone app isn’t burning up the 3G networks either.  Just today, Wouter Stomp MD and Nick Genes MD, PhD who reviewed the 6 of best PubMed apps for iPhone and iPad for said, “Although Pubmed has a mobile version of its website, it looks outdated and is not the easiest to use.”  So just because a library or vendor creates an app or mobile interface doesn’t mean that rest easy.  They need to find out how users use it and what other competitors or libraries are doing to improve their product. 

Are we starting to feel that we are missing the users?  I don’t know, I would guess it depends on your users and your library technology.  But I don’t think this mobile web access is a passing fad.  I think librarians, libraries, and library resource providers are behind the curve on this.

Android Marketplace to Have Medical Category

Searching for medical apps for smart phones can be a bit of a pain.  It seems like medical professionals when browsing for good apps need to sift through the thousands calorie counter apps before they can find something like Epocrates.  To try and make things a little easier, iTunes created a medical category which is separate from the health and fitness category.  It is isn’t fool proof, there are still some apps that get thrown into the medical category which really don’t belong, but in general it helps.

It appears that Android users will soon have a medical category too.  According to iMedicalApps, Google is set to launch a medical category for Android Market apps this week.  Additionally, they report Google is asking developers to send larger screen shots of their apps for Android Marketplace which has caused some to speculate that Google is planning to put Android Marketplace online. 

If it is indeed true, this will help Android using health care professionals find appropriate medical apps.  Librarians might want to keep an eye out for when this goes live so they can add it to their list of resources (if they keep track of smart phone resources).

When Your iPhone Dies

Almost 2 years ago I bought an iPhone and after reading and hearing stories about how fragile the little suckers were I decided to purchase insurance for my phone.  I am not cell phone abuser, I have only killed 1 1/2 phones since I have started carrying them.  I say 1 1/2 because my clamshell flip phone fell down a flight of stairs and it broke into two parts resulting in a definite cell phone death, while the “half” dead phone was the result of a spilled drink.  The drowned cell phone actually worked fine, the screen was just messed up and you couldn’t see who was calling.  But I still used it until my plan renewed.

Recently I began having difficulties with my iPhone.  The external speaker stopped working, thus no ring tone when somebody called and the alarm clock (which I used in hotels) was silent.  I could hear things when I had earphones in but that was about it.  Then the battery life on my phone went from typical smartphone paltry to downright nothing.  I would only get about 20 minutes of talk time out of it and maybe an 1 hour standby.  This was the death blow for me.  I cannot have a phone that I must leave plugged in constantly to receive calls. 

Thankfully I bought Square Trade insurance for the expensive little beast.  Why did I go with Square Trade over Apple Care?  Simple… Remember I told you I had one phone that broke in half and another drown?  Apple Care does not insure your phone against user inflicted damage (drops, water damage, etc.) but Square Trade does.  So logged on to Square Trade and filed a claim to replace my dying iPhone. 

The process was very simple (I had scanned in the original purchase receipt when I bought the insurance), I filled out the online form stating my problem and verified my address.  They sent out a replacement phone within 2 business days.  I received it and began charging it while I worked on syncing and getting all my stuff off of my old iPhone.  The transfer from old phone to new phone was a little clunky, but I blame iTunes primarily not the phones.  iTunes still can’t find my music but that happened with the old phone as well.  I then sent back my old phone in a prepaid UPS box.  It only took me a couple of days to do all of this.  It would have been quicker if Thanksgiving, kids, painting a house, work, etc. weren’t all demanding my attention. 

A few important things to note:

  • You must return your old iPhone within 15 days or they will charge you $500 for sending the replacement phone. 
  • If they determine the reason your iPhone is dead/dying is due to an accident such as dropping or liquid then you are charged a $50 deductible.  This is actually spelled out in the insurance contract prior to buying insurance. 
  • I had an iPhone 3G.  I would venture to say there are very few if any new 3G phones still waiting to be sold.  There might be a few 3GS phones hanging around but really the iPhone 4 is what is out there.  They try to replace like phone with like. So I did not get an iPhone 4, I got a refurbed 3G.  While I do wish I had a new phone (I am always worried about refurbs) my phone was 2 years old and dying fast, the refurb HAD to be better than it. 

Would I insure my iPhone again with Square Trade.  Yes!  I basically paid $80 for a two year plan and go a replacement phone.  If I didn’t have the insurance I would be without a phone (fairly soon given its battery life span) and I would have had to plunk down $400 for a new one while in the middle of my plan. 

The real question now is whether I stick with my iPhone.  I really like it but I have two major gripes about it.

  • No Flash. Sorry all you Apple fans and Steve Jobs but the Internet has a ton of stuff on Flash and if I want to watch a video that is Flash I want to watch it, I don’t want to hope that it is also on YouTube.  Who knows maybe this is problem is moot when HTML 5 becomes more prevalent. 
  • AT&T is EXPENSIVE!  3 years ago it cost me about $80 for three cell phones (mine, my husband’s and mother-in-law’s phones). Now I look at $170/month for three phones (and no, mother-in-law is not racking up the bill).  That is double. 

What am I going to do?  The Flash thing is tricky, I might not have as much control over that as I would like given the types of phones out there and carriers.  If I leave my iPhone I am leaving AT&T and looking at an Android.  I am seriously considering Virgin Mobile which $40 for all you can eat data, texting, and 1200/month/phone.  I would have to buy the Android outright and not have it subsidized by a contract but that is still a savings in the end. 

If I move from the iPhone I will still write about medical and library applications for it, but I will probably write more on what is out there for Androids as well.  We will see where things take me in the smartphone world.

100 Free Kaplan E-Books Through Apple Bookstore

According to Kaplan is offering 100 free e-books through the Apple Bookstore for a limited time.  There are 19 medically related books available including USMLE books, MCAT, and CCRN books.

Unfortunately this free book detail is only available to iPad and iPhone users (because the deal is only available at the Apple Bookstore) until August 30, 2010. 

Check out for more information and some good screen shots of what the books look like on the iPad (they state it is “significantly easier” to read the books on the iPad).