Turning Online Books on Their Ear

If books had ears then Inkling, a company that makes textbooks interactive for the iPad, would be turning them on their ear.  Currently most of us are familiar with ebooks through AccessMedicine, MDConsult, StatRef, and even Unbound Medicine.  These types of ebooks tend to be a little bit more than the book in a readable (often PDF) style that can be easily read online.  Sometimes there are more graphics, links to online resources, movies or sound files that are embedded in the text, but they pretty much still function like the text. 

Recently iMedicalApps posted about Inkling’s webinar on their ebooks. I have included the Inkline webinar in this blog post, please note you may have to watch it at home like I did if your hospital blocks Vimeo.  

 Inkling Medical Webinar from Inkling on Vimeo.

The webinar goes into a rather long history of how traditional textbooks are boring, printed, linear, and not interactive.  But hey that was the best technology we had at the time…I can only imaging the conversations when we moved from scrolls to books. I found the most interesting parts to be the demo of Inkling books.  They looked at Harrison’s and Netter’s and showed the difference between their books and regular online books.  Some of the difference are the ability to take and share notes with others globally, removing labels for medical images, and linking to multimedia.  My explanation is not doing it justice so it is best if you watch the webinar.  Librarian, Nadine Dexter, also discussed how her institution is using Inkling books for the new medical school. 

Inkling books are available for individual sale as well as institutional sales.  They also will sell just the chapters to books.  So if your medical school curriculum only needs students to read a couple of chapters within a book, they (or the institution) only have to buy those chapters which is cheaper than the entire book.  They already have relationships with McGraw Hill, Wolters Kluwer, Elsevier, etc. so it isn’t like iBooks where we are waiting for something medical to happen.

The webinar is only 30 minutes and they did a good job of answering the questions people had but  it was directed to a lot of different health care people (not just librarians), so some questions that librarians often think about weren’t asked or answered during that time.  Some of the questions that I thought of while watching the webinar were about perpetual access, licensing, how does it work with Blackboard and other course management systems.  If a library bought a book what is the best way for them to distribute it their institutional employees.   In terms of library purchases, is it something that is “check-out-able” and is unavailable while somebody is using it (similar to public library Kindle books) or can any number of institutional users use it at any time? 

I have been saving up to purchase an iPad 3 when they come out and I am looking forward to testing all sorts of online books (Inkling included) to see how they measure up.  I am just glad I found this webinar because it looks like Inkling is nice addition to the already small field of medical ebooks and even small field of those willing to work with institutions.