Free eBooks Webinar

ALA TechSource has a free webinar, “Introducing the Book as an iPad App” on July 23, 2012 at 2:00pm est. 

Brief description from ALA TechSource:

iPads are everywhere. Some publishers are experimenting with a new kind of book, published as an app. These books are distinct from the mostly-text ebooks you might read with the Kindle or Nook apps. Drawing from all the functionality of the iPad platform, creators may extend the book, presenting a new immersive experience for readers. As hybrids mixing elements of film, videogames, and social media in with the text traditional to the book, this new kind of book challenges the notion of what a book is. For librarians, they offer new opportunities in evaluation, selection, and services.

The webinar will probably be more geared toward public library and possibly academic libraries but it is free and might be worth attending to see how ebooks are evolving for libraries.  I think public libraries have a better handle on ebooks than medical libraries so perhaps there are some things that we should be looking at and aware of for our situation. 

If you are interested you need to register.  Go to:

My Loser Boyfriend: eBooks

As much as I love ebooks and technology, they are like a crummy loser boyfriend.  Full of ups and downs that take you on a roller coaster of emotions only leaving you to love them one minute and hate them the next.  Just like that loser boyfriend they have money issues and sometimes I find myself humming Joan Jett, “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” when dealing with them.


  • They are available whenever, wherever, and can’t be stolen, lost, or damaged.
  • Using ebooks I can provide information to patrons across the hospital at the time of need and they don’t have to come to the library.
  • Many ebooks can be updated more often than traditional print books.


  • The distribution of medical ebooks is STILL behind the public library model (and while the public library model isn’t that spectactular it runs circles around what we have). 
  • Publishers who require an ADDITIONAL logins if you are using a smart phone.  It is confusing to patrons, they don’t understand why they are being asked for a password when they are on the hospital network.  In this instance they don’t think of their phone any differently than a lap top. (ahem MDConsult/Elseveier)
  • Many ebooks are stuck in publisher silos, can’t be searched effectively.  No NORMAL person knows to go directly to StatRef to search, then AccessMedicine, then MDConsult, etc.  They just know they want a book on a topic and they want to type in the topic somewhere and be presented with a list of ALL the ebooks that has their topic.  Some librarians say…ah use the catalog.  Ptthbbb, ever try searching for a chapter topic or something else within the content of the book in the catalog?  It sucks.


  • Few companies have a few book titles that can be downloaded to a mobile device but they are way too expensive because we have to BUY the book and they don’t have a circulating model plan (ala public libraries).   Large publisher’s with books we need and pay lots of money for can’t be downloaded to any mobile device, they are web enabled…yeah patrons love hearing that. 
  • I get the idea that an online book is more expensive than in print because it can be viewed by many, but if one online title is a 1/3 of my book budget, I can’t buy it no matter how much I want to have it online.
  • We all are either scraping by on less budget or a flat budget while just trying to keep current library resources that keep getting more expensive. I have no flexibility to “try” your new product.  I don’t care if it is cool and it addresses a need, I can’t afford it.  The price might be reasonable or it might be whack-a-doodle but I still can’t afford it without dropping something.  My wish list is a mile long and it isn’t getting shorter with items that are reasonable (as well as whack-a-doodle) pricing. 

Right now we are all searching for the Mr. Right of ebooks.  Part of the difficulty is that Mr. Right for me might be Mr. Wrong for somebody else.  But our potential boyfriends (the publishers) need to step it up considerably if they want to be Mr. Right for any library because it seems many of us are unhappy and currently settling for Mr. Right Now.  

This what my patrons want (therefore this what I want):

  • eBook platforms that work on lap tops AND are downloadable to a mobile device (not web enabled to a mobile device).
    • We need the core chunk of titles that we are CURRENTLY buying from you, don’t increase the price so that one dinky little title is $2000 online and a established plain ol’ text (not a even a reference book) is $15,000.  That my friends, is whack-a-doodle pricing. We don’t buy online books like that now, making it “downloadable” at that price is not going to change our mind or our budget.
      • For example AccessMedicine, MDConsult, Ovid get your ebook platforms that we are already buying downloadable….now!
  • We are very open to the circulation model of ebooks.  Public libraries are doing it and our patrons seem to understand that concept. This is a nice alternative to buying the title and should be cheaper than buying the title.  Think of it as renting.
    • We need a collection of decent titles. Not a pittance of specialty books.  We need/want the Harrison’s, Hurst’s, DeVita’s, etc.  We need real titles, don’t shove your Big Toe Science book in there, unless we are podiatrists we don’t want them and won’t buy them.
  • Eliminate the artificial barriers for access.  We do a VERY good job of maintaining proper access to our online resources (becasue your license agreements require us).  We know better than you do who our patrons are and when to cut them off, so let us do our jobs and stop putting up extra logins while people are on network or proxied.  If our patrons get confused, they don’t use, if they don’t use we don’t buy. Plain and simple, extra loggins affect our usage stats (negatively) and we don’t buy or drop your stuff if our usage stats go down.  Remember we have wish list a mile long waiting for weakness in a product. 

Some day I hope that I am able to look back at ebooks like I do at my old loser boyfriends; a phase that I had to go through in order to meet Mr. Right.

Unauthorized Copies of Medical Texts on Apple Apps Store

I am on vacation this week so I have also been taking a bit of electronic vacation as well with the blog. But I ran across a post earlier this morning and thought….”Wow I have to blog about this!”

The post is on, “Are unauthorized copies of popular medical textbooks being sold in Apple App Store?” While reviewing “Human Anatomy Pro for iPad” by YoDevApps LLC, Tom Lewis noticed striking similarities between the Human Anatomy app and the Gray’s Anatomy for Student App/textbook. Yet, there was no mention of this in the original iTunes description and upon further examination, Tom noted that all the images and words were direct copies of the original text of Gray’s.

Tom emailed (June 10, 2012) YoDevApps LLC for explannation of the “similarities,” and basically Evans Ben (YoDevApps), in a poorly worded and spelled email, told Tom there are similarities to Gray’s as well as other texts because he consulted the text when creating his app.
Yet this is not limited to Human Anatomy Pro and Gray’s. Tom discovered there were several titles that appeared to have a lot in common with well established medical texts. They are:

  • Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Similar to Dorland’s illustrated Medical Dictionary)
  • Principles of Internal Medicine (Similar to Harrisons Principles of Internal Medicine)
  • Clinical Medicine (Similar to Clinical Medicine by Kumar and Clark)
  • Principles of Anatomy and Physiology (Similar to Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology)

On the iMedicalApps site Tom provides screen captures of images from the YoDevApps iTunes page and compares them to the other textbooks.  When making the comparisons, Tom used both printed editions of books (Kumar and Clark) and other ebook editions (Harrison’s via Inkling).  The images are identical.

Obviously as Tom indicates, these apps raise a lot of questions about proper licensing and distribution of copyrighted material.  Since the content appears to be heavily borrowed, it also makes it extremely difficult to trust the developer on content accuracy which is essential for medical apps.

iMedicalApps recently contacted publishers (of the original texts) and Apple regarding situation and will update their article when they have a response from those involved. As of 6/12/2012 Elsevier has responded and is “initiating action”.

Not only is this whole thing interesting from a copyright standpoint, but it reminds us that we must be careful regarding medical apps.  Any developer can throw something up on the App Store and have it look reliable.

Are Publishers Too Old To Design/Create Effective eBooks?

Wolters Kluwer tweeted a link about a middle school class creating the top selling enhanced ebook on iTunes. The book,  “Creatures, Plants and More! A Kid’s Guide to Northwest Florida,” is interactive and contains pictures, videos and text related to the wildlife found in Northwest Florida.  It was published by a seventh grade class at Woodlawn Beach Middle school, based on a student assignment to create multimedia content around the local gulf-coast wildlife.

Now the book is free, so I am sure that helps keep it at the top of the best “seller” list.  One could argue the press surrounding the creation of an ibook by middle schoolers helps drive the “buys” as well.  However, the book was just published April 26, 2012 and according to a May 1st  article (earliest report on the ebook I could find) on the Woodlawn Beach Middle School’s web page, the book was already the top ranking free book. So, while the press coverage might add to the popularity, the book itself started out strong.

Why is this important, especially on a blog about medical librarianship?  

Maybe I got up on a different side of the bed today, but this report got me thinking about the design of ebooks and whether publishers are just too old, to “get it.”  Are the powers that be and structure within publishing  too steeped in the traditional concept of a paper book to really understand the idea of an interactive ebook?  to further explain this let me draw upon my grade school experiences with computers. (Yes I can remember back that far.)

When I was a kid (2nd or 3rd grade) everyone seemed to be rushing to get computers in school and I remember an old room converted to a computer lab stuffed with Apple IIe’s.  Time in the computer lab was supposed to be important, but since the whole grade school had to share 10 computers, we didn’t visit the lab very often.  The only time I remember visiting the computer lab was for math class, specifically plotting graph equations on the computer.  We would spend the whole math hour inputting coordinates into the computer and at the end, if we did it right, we were “treated” to a green line or triangle.  Booooorring.  I got nothing out of that.  I actually dreaded computer lab time.

In grade school we never used the computers for anything other than that section in the math curriculum.  Yet everyone spoke about technology in the classroom, using computers in education, and teachers were asked to teach with computers.  However the problem was the teachers were using old traditional concepts and marrying them to computers.  They really didn’t adapt the lessons or concepts at all.  The tool of the computer was little more than complicated graphing paper.  They were forcing a square peg into a round hole but not realizing they were even doing that. 

Now the computer has been around for long time and we now have the Internet.  Many teachers today grew up with computers (or at least remember sitting in front of those old Apple II’s).  Their minds no longer think of the computer as a technology, it is a part of their life, a tool for other things.  It is integrated better into the curriculum because it is already integrated into their (and their students) lives.  It is now as common as other things in the classroom like reference books, smartboards (no more banging chalk out of erasers), desks, etc. 

The interactive ebook is the Apple IIe, we don’t know how to create or use it effectively.  The vast majority of us have been programmed with the linear thinking of traditional books.  Many of us talk about converting medical texts into ebooks but we (including publishers) think of the book as a linear progression; start, middle, end.  We throw in movies, pictures and sound but those are positioned in a linear way; within chapters.  Often the ebook is the paper book with multimedia and perhaps added chapters.  But it is usually pretty straight forward.  It is the paper juiced up on steroids, but it is still the paper.

So while the middle schooler’s ebook is still more in line with traditional books it was created only as an electronic product therefore it is free of some of the contraints from already printed version.  Perhaps as tablet devices evolve and people grow up with them and begin to think of them as an everyday thing, our ebooks will begin to evolve beyond the print model.  My 5 yr old or my 1 yr old will be thinking of something totally different regarding an ebook when they are adults.  They will be the ones to see how to publish and distribute content that was once in paper.

What is a disaster and what are your plans?

I think we all can agree that something like fire, tornado, flood, earthquake are all disasters and hopefully libraries have some sort of contingency plans when those events happen.  But what about those “other” disasters.  I say other because they may not meet the standard definition of a disaster, but when they happen all work stops or something majorly impacts your productivity.

Marie Kennedy posted “Disaster planning for e-resources” on Organization Monkey about her library’s recent problems when EBSCO’s databases went down earlier this month.  “From a library perspective, when a major content provider goes down, it is a legitimate disaster. For electronic resources librarians, all the usual work stops and crisis management mode takes over.”  This is true for us as well.  Even if a major journal goes down we start getting calls right away from doctor’s wondering what happened.  If our linking system goes down or a major database goes down, then all *blank* hits the fan. 

Our operations are so dependent on certain programs that when they go down our access to information also goes down.  It may not be a disaster in the traditional sense of the word, but it is still a disaster for information retrieval. 

Marie describes the procedures her library use to inform library personnel and library users of situation.  She also mentions how frustrating it was for her and her library’s staff to go through this “without the help of EBSCO.”  In fact most librarians were reaching out through MEDLIB-L, Twitter, and other local listservs,  to try and figure out why CINAHL, Discovery, and other resources were DOA.

EBSCO is just the latest resource, but this sort of things has happened with Ovid, PubMed and other databases or online journals.  It also won’t be the last resource to experience a “temporary outage.”  So what are your library procedures for dealing with these events?  How do you notify your customers and does that vary according to the resource?

How Do I Generate Interest in QR Codes?

This project was to increase awareness our patron’s awareness of our e-book collection and I am worried I am going to going to become Sisyphus in the process.

E-books are hard for patrons to know about.  We still have a large group of users who peruse the stacks for books on a topic. 

Possible Solution:
Put the subject list of e-books within eyesight of those who browse the shelves.  Create a brightly colored message to be displayed on the shelves informing people of our ebooks and how to access them.

Ideal outcome:
Users will see the QR code and scan them with their smartphone to view a list of ebooks within that subject.  We are using to create the codes and track their usage. Users without smartphones will see the note and check the catalog for ebooks. 

Used bright yellow paper and old unbound journal holders.



Made multiple notices for each subject area depending on the size of print collection (area it spans on the shelves).



Distributed the notices through out the stacks within each subject area and spaced for maximum viewing opportunity.

QRs In Stacks

We haven’t invested anything into this project other bright yellow paper and my time.  We used the many unbound journal holders that we had left over from our print journal days to post the yellow paper and as place holder in the stacks.  Even the QR code generator and tracker is free.  The only thing that really wasn’t free was our e-books but we bought them long ago before QR codes were known to geeks. 

So while we haven’t invested anything in the project. We have a vested interest that our e-books get more usage.  This project is just another way to drive attention to them. 

Still, I am plagued by a persistent little voice in my head asking whether people will even bother to scan these codes.  Because according to the CNN Tech article, Why QR Codes Aren’t Catching On, “many people don’t understand what QR codes are or what to do with them.”  The article cites a study by Archival which found that while “80% of students owned a smartphone and had previously seen a QR code, only about 20% were able to successfully scan the example QR code they were shown. Furthermore, about 75% said they were unlikely to scan a QR code in the future.”  Even if people know what a QR code is and know how to scan it this Market Plan post says, Consumers Still Don’t Know What to do With QR Codes

I really want this project to work, but these articles suggest I have an uphill battle.  It is going to take a lot of promoting and educating to get this QR code thing moving. 

I have begun to post signs through out the library and strategically next to QR codes in the stacks (see the yellow code below the sign) promoting our e-books and the QR codes.



I finally got all of the yellow QR code signs in the stacks and the advertising signs up on Friday.  It is Monday and while I know I have a long way to go before I know if this project is boom or bust, I need to come up with some more educational and promotional ideas to get it off to the best possible start.  So I am asking you all in the library world to throw me some suggestions via your comments.  The suggestions won’t only help me, they will help others who are thinking of doing the same thing.

Friday Fun: What Happens When All We Have Are E-Books has a fun post, “8 Unexpected Downsides of the Switch to E-Books.” Instead of looking at the “boring” issues that happen as ebook sales overtake regular book sales, Christina H decided to “find some e-book ramifications that would appeal to the type of people who spend more time preparing for a zombie apocalypse than like, unemployment, or retirement, or something. You know, realists.”

In the interest of Friday Fun, I thought I would expand on her list of what we will miss out on when all of our books go electronic.

9. You can’t secretly read a comic book inside the cover of your history book. 

Kind of a messy way to pretend to be reading something else.  The old way was much better.

10. Kindles and other e-readers just aren’t thick enough or easily stacked to be effective when you have to keep a chair or table from tipping.

Oh yeah you can try a matchbook or folded paper, but for the truly shortened leg you need a book.  Or if you are an engineer like my dad and need to put stripe wall paper up in a stairway with a vaulted ceiling, you can use a combination of books, old bricks, a son-in-law, and a rickety old ladder precariously placed on the steps to help you reach the ceiling to wall joint. (Unfortunately, I have no pictures of that engineering marvel but witnesses can attest to the use of books.)

(Oh look an little engineer in training, my dad would be so proud.)

11. You absolutely cannot use a Kindle as an ad hoc booster seat, you need a good thick book for that.  Back before booster seats were en vogue, my mother, the nurse, made us each sit on a telephone book when we sat in the back seat of the car so that the seat belt went across our hip bones instead of our tummies.  My mom was a visionary, in 1970 she created the booster seat.  Of course now we have real safety booster seats, but the big thick book is still needed to give a boost to ones bottom.


Do you have any other suggestions on just what we will be losing when the world goes all e-book?  Let me know? 


Harrison’s Through Inkling vs. AccessMedicine

The iMedicalApps team compared Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine on Inkling vs. AccessMedicine.  I feel I am at a bit of a conflict of interest here.  I have recently begun to work with iMedicalApps to write some posts (I am currently working on a post right now) and I agreed to moderate the Medical Librarian’s Corner of their Medical Apps Forum.

My problem is that I see at least one error in the review, another area where the author needed to be clearer in their evaluation, omissions regarding updates, and a slight bias toward student use.  As a result it makes it difficult for me to read the comparison without talking back to the computer.  Now I don’t have an iPad (saving up for an iPad 3 when they come out) and I don’t have a subscription to Inkling, but I have worked with Harrison’s Online through AccessMedicine extensively so I am extremely familiar with it.  Since I don’t have Inkling’s Harrion’s I can’t do a comparison of the two products, but I feel the need to point out the error in the review and provide some criticisms about the review itself.

While I may be struggling with how to do this appropriately given my new relationship with iMedicalApps, I don’t have any conflict of interest with AccessMedicine, McGraw Hill or any of the Access databases.  In fact I have recently been kind of critical of them for having difficult mobile access policies (require personal login even while on campus) that do more to hinder the use of their ebooks. 

Update 2/22/12 Ooops…I am wrong, I do have a conflict of interest with McGraw Hill that I should report.  I am on the Library Board for Silverchair and Silverchair actually built McGraw Hill’s AccessMedicine product. I want to thank those who reminded me of that.  It was never my intention to hide that information, I just was more focused on the actual product and the review and honestly forgot about Silverchair’s involvement.  So I guess with ties to iMedicalApps and AccessMedicine, you could say I am equally(?) conflicted?

Despite the various possible conflicts of interest, I really just tried to expand on the orginal review of the two platforms and correct an error. 

First, let me address the obvious error within the review.  The author of the review compared the search features of the Inkling platform and the AccessMedicine platform. 

“Both AM and Inkling have search capacities, but Inkling’s is far superior. First, Inkling confines its search only to Harrison’s and it retrieves every table, figure, and text finding. AM, on the other hand, has a website-wide search function that doesn’t just give Harrison’s results but also the results from other titles in the AM library.”

This is incorrect.  AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s can search only within the book.  The author of this review failed to notice the drop down arrow next to the search box that allows one to search only within Harrison’s.  See image below.


This a pretty obvious error.  Now I admit the default for the search box is AccessMedcine (as you can see) but just clicking the arrow you can easily limit your search to Harrison’s.  Perhaps AccessMedcine might want to consider making the default for the Search dependent on where the user is on the site.  If the user is within Harrison’s then the default is Harrison’s.  If the user is in Goodman and Gilman’s then the default is Goodman and Gilman’s.  If this is possible, this would help people out.

Second, I feel the reviewer needs to be a little clearer regarding the search results within Inkling and AccessMedicine.  The reviewer takes issue with the number of times the term heparin was found within AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s vs Inkling. 

“Moreover, the power of the Inkling search is greater than AM’s. I retrieved 50 matches when I searched Heparin on Inkling. In AM, I only retrieved 13 matches, most of which were tables, rather than mentions of heparin within text chapters. Harrison’s is such a mammoth text that a powerful search function is essential, which Inkling provides and AM does not.

This statement implies that the reviewer only looked at the search results screen from Harrison’s and counted on the number of retrieved results.  They are correct that most of the retrieved results were tables where heparin was mentioned, and only one result was where heparin was mentioned within the text of Harrison’s.  However, this is kind of misleading.  This implies that the term heparin was only mention once in the entire book of Harrison’s on AccessMedicine, which is not the case.  When you do a search for heparin in AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s, the top result (see image below) is a whole chapter on antiplatelets and anticoagulants (Chapter 118).  Yet in the reviewers own screen shots, a search on heparin in Inkling also lists mostly tables AND the most relevant information (the chapter that heparin is mentioned) is listed far down on the retrieved results.  I would have thought the chapter is more relevant than the tables (and given the tone of the review, so does the reviewer) but it would seem from the Inkling screen shots that it isn’t because listing for the chapter burried below the results for tables.


The whole chapter in AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s has over 100 mentions of the term heparin (as shown in bright red circle below)


So my question for the reviewer is whether Inkling retrieved more hits because it was counting the multiple times the term heparin was mentioned in the chapter on anticoagulants OR did it find more instances of the term heparin within OTHER chapters of Harrison’s.  This is kind of an important nuance when you are looking at search results.  Because if Inkling’s 50 hits were all within the same anticoagulant chapter then the search feature is similar to AccessMedicine’s and the results are just presented differently.  (Here is a whole chapter on heparin vs. here is where it is mentioned every single time in the chapter.)  But if Inking’s search found more instances of the term heparin within other chapters of the whole book then the search features on Inkling are picking up something that AccessMedicine isn’t.  Is this good or bad?  It really depends.  Is it picking up relevant results like the paragraph on heparin in Chapter 370 Cerebrovascular Diseases (ischemic stroke section) or is it just picking up the term where it is used briefly in a sentence and really has little relevance if you truly searching the subject heparin?  It is also important to remember that Inkling’s results for heparin were not as relevant because the chapter was listed the tables.

When looking at the strength of search engines more than a mere word count needs to be discussed if we are to really understand which platform has the best search features.  Relevancy is way more important than sheer number of results, look how much junk floats to the surface of some Google searches.  Unfortunately this was not discussed in detail enough for us to determine whether Inkling’s search engine is really better (retrieves more relevant results). 

The reviewer does correctly mention that AccessMedicine has the most updated information from Harrison’s.  Updates are made continuously online through AccessMedicine, therefore a reader doesn’t have to wait for a new printing of the book.  “It is uncertain whether Inkling will enable the same kind of updates.”  The reviewer surmises that Inkling will update their version when the next edition of Harrison’s is available (much like a print edition schedule).  However, the reviewer omitted to discuss the e-chapters within AccessMedicine’s Harrisons and whether they were available on Inkling. 

There are over 50 e-chapters that according to AccessMedicine are only available online (image below just captures the last chapters with the note about the e-chapter logo). 

 That is A LOT of addition e-content.  Some of those e-chapters are tutorials and videos but others are actual chapters not “ancillary content.”   

Some chapters that are e-content only:

  • Primary Care in Low and Middle Income Countries
  • Complementary, Alternative & Integrative Medicine
  • Ethical Issues in Clinical Medicine
  • Approach to the Patient with a Heart Murmur
  • Mitochondrial DNA and Heritable Traits and Diseases

It is imporant to know whether Inkling’s text has these same chapters as AccessMedicine or whether it is missing chapters.

Finally, the reviewer seems to have a slight bias toward student use.  The reviewer seems to dismiss the charts, tables, and PowerPoint lecture slides. 

“There is also some ancillary material that the AM version gives that Inkling does not. Nearly every chapter in AM’s Harrison’s has powerpoint lecture slides that have figures and tables from the book. This is not of great importance to most students I suspect, but instructors may care.”

Maybe some students may not care about slides, figures, and PowerPoint slides, but if you have to give a presentation you probably care a lot. As a librarian at a large research medical center I can tell you this type of “ancillary material” is asked for and used more than the reviewer would think.  For example I can’t tell you how many times I used to get asked about NEJM’s PowerPoint slides and how they could download them.  (I am not unique, other librarians have been asked this too.)  So I would say that Harrison’s slides, charts and tables are more than just mere ancillary material that only instructors may care about.  I think if you are doing any  research, publishing, and presenting you will be very happy to have another resource for your papers and presentations. 

 Now that I have pointed out the things I found to be lacking in the review, I do want to mention some of things that I feel the reviewer correctly hit on. 

Note taking within AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s is not helpful and all types of users, including students, take notes.  If you have created your own personal MyAccessMedcine account you can “Bookmark” chapters and items, but you really can’t take notes. 

The reviewer is also correct that if you want a version of Harrison’s that is not dependent on an Internet connection then Inkling is for you.  However, as hospital networks improve I see this locally loaded feature (of any product not just Inkling) to be less of an issue.  The cloud is the future for information storage and retrieval. But I do recognize this is a personal taste issue, some people just like having content loaded locally.

The way AccessMedicine limits readers to view only sections at a time is frustrating and a barrier.  As a result AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s Online is not an easy book to read online.  Inkling’s version appears to be very easy to read online based ont he review.  The reviewer correctly mentioned the reason for divvying up the book into sections was to prevent online piracy.  Unfortunatly, this does little to prevent piracy and more to inhibit real usage. (People are scanning entire books and making them available online. AccessMedicine does little to prevent guests from creating a MyAccessMedicine password at a subscribing institution and using it well after they are an authorized user.)  It appears from the review, Inkling’s book is much more user friendly to read in a sitting rather than the AccessMedicine version.  AccessMedicine’s presentation is limits its use.

Personally, I think the decision to use AccessMedicine’s Harrison’s vs Inkling breaks down into 2 parts.

1. If you want to stay current and have the most recent information then you need to use AccessMedicine’s version.  Inkling has not indicated their update schedule and AccessMedicine always updates Harrison’s.  The reviewer did not mention if e-chapters are in Inkling’s version, if they aren’t then you are missing chapters.

2. If you are not as concerned about the timeliness of the information (or the possiblity of missing e-chapters) and you want an easy to read experience with the ability to take notes and read offline then Inkling’s version is what you want.

e-Books: Why Bother

I had a great idea.  Or at least I thought it was a great idea.  However making it a reality makes me think that maybe my idea might just stay in the realm of ideas.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I swear a boat load of people got iPads or smartphones for Christmas because the calls for help about resources, ebooks, network access, etc. have really taken off. Some things like network access or knowing how much data they might consume if they are doing 3G are a little bit out of our control.  But ebooks and library resources, well hell, I thought I could help with that in a relatively easy way.  (Just hit me over the head if I ever think something is going to be easy.)

We are in process of re-designing our website so we did a survey of our users.  We learned that 53% surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that a website for mobile use of library resources is important.  We learned that our users want a website with; better organization, streamlined function, easy for tech un-savvy, and fewer clicks to get to resources.  They want a simple way to find books and ebooks.  (Clearly the catalog isn’t what they consider simple.) They want an easier way to login to resources from home, and to login once.   Not only do our users want simple easy ways to access online resources from the website and their mobile devices but they want simple (few clicks, easy one login) to ebooks from home. 

Ok, now we’re cooking. We know what our users want, so let’s get going. Somebody is working on the regular website and I thought I could help get things mobile.  I approached it on two fronts, the mobile resources and easier access to ebooks.

Lots of librarians shared their lists on Medical Librarian Forum and we have been compiling a list of mobile friendly resources.  Not only would we have a list of mobile friendly sites and apps the library subscribed to but we would have our own mobile site linking to the mobile friendly library resources.  Additionally we came up with a few ideas on how to increase the visibility (and hopefully the usage) of our ebooks. 

I was feeling pretty confident that these things could make finding ebooks easier and also help current and future mobile users get to our resources.  Remember, I said I thought it would be easy? Just start hitting me on the head now…

The problem is the mobile site of vendors.  Many vendors like Elsevier (MDConsult and First Consult), McGraw Hill (Access database) direct smartphones immediately to their mobile site.  While this is nice, their mobile sites require users to login  using their personal login they created.  So a library user would have to have a personal login to each database: MDConsult, First Consult, and all of the Access databases we subscribe to.  If somebody is accessing our resources off campus these personal logins are needed in addition to our proxy login that our users already use to access library resources from home. 

See the problem?  People who are just browsing our resources on their smartphone on campus have to create multiple logins in order to use our online resources from their phone.  We link to our ebooks through the catalog and we are thinking about adding QR code browsing of ebooks in the stacks, but this won’t work on smartphones.  Why? Because when the person scans on the code or clicks the link in our catalog the vendor’s mobile site demands a personal login.  So there is no direct link to the ebook, they have to have a personal login.  Most users don’t think of our ebooks according to vendors, they just click on the title and they EXPECT the book to show up, they don’t expect to be asked for another login.  This method assumes our users have created a personal login with that vendor prior to clicking on the book.  Most people aren’t thinking, “Oh I want to look in Harrison’s Online, I should get a MyAccess login before I click on the title.”

The problem gets even more compounded when our users are off campus.  Our users have been trained to login to our resources using our proxy server.  This is what they have been doing for years, it is a standard for accessing resources remotely, and this is what most users want.  In fact respondents to our recent user survey said they want one login! Well, we can’t provide that if the vendors are creating an extra login! 

So even if I want to provide easy access to ebooks, I can’t.  I have remind people that they have to create a personal login with each vendor.  How do I do that?  That is a heck of mess to write in the online catalog record for each title.  “Click here for access. If you are using a smartphone you must login with your personal login.”  Great then I get more calls about how to create a personal login, to reset their personal login, or that they are using their personal login and can’t get in (but they are using their proxy login). 

Not only do I have the problem in the catalog, I would have the same communication problem on the mobile library site. As anybody who has a smartphone knows, mobile optimized sites are easier to view than the full website.  So the design is a little different than a regular website.  For example if you are linking to resources, you probably don’t want  a whole lot words explaining things.  People on a mobile library website really kind of want the links to go to the resources they need not a whole bunch of instructions about unique login procedures for each resource.

As somebody mentioned to me users don’t have to have a personal login they just tap on the link to Full Site and they can access the resources.  Um doesn’t that kill the whole point of having mobile optimized resources?  Searching th full site of MDConsult or AccessMedicine on a smartphone involves a lot of screen expanding and pinching.  Aren’t we trying to get our users to use our ebooks?  Aren’t we asking/demanding vendors that our ebooks also become mobile optimized?! 

Locking ebooks behind personal logins or forcing people to use the Full Site is not getting people to use the ebooks or online resources. It is a barrier!  Why have vendors created this artificial barrier?!  Why can’t an institutional user access an online resource or ebook without having a personal login?!

In addition to the user access problems I have with personal logins, I have two other questions/problems…

  • Usage stats – Are we getting usage stats each time somebody from our institution is using their personal login? If no, that is very bad. If yes, that is good but we can get without personal logins. You already have our IP ranges and proxy info.
  • Concurrent users – If you don’t have an site license then people can easily come as visitors create a personal login and then use that personal login to access your material looooong after they have left your institution.  These unauthorized unaffiliated users are taking up your concurrent user license spot(s).  We maintain our authorized users list.  We enter the expiration date of visitors, students, contractors, techs, etc. into our system.  When their badge expires they can’t access our resources via proxy.  Therefore we are in agreement with our license agreements AND they are taking up a concurrent user spot.

It is possible to have the mobile site work using institutional proxy, Thompson Reuters Web of Science is mobile optimized.  I click on the link to WoS and I am directed to the mobile site. I am not asked for a personal login.  Off campus I am asked to login to my library account then I am directed to mobile site.  Easy squeazey and MAKES SENSE!

What started out as an easy (yes keep hitting me on the head) project of providing a simple list of mobile optimized resources and linking directly to the books turned into a giant mess.  How can I recommend these mobile resources to smartphone users or the ebooks when I know it will confuse them and frustrate them.  Hell, it confused and frustrated me and I am a librarian who is FAMILIAR with this stuff.  Our users aren’t going to use this stuff the way it is set up right now and unfortunately I can’t make it easier for them because this personal login thing is out of my control.  Why should I bother setting up links to mobile resources and ebooks when it is going to cause more problems and questions then it is worth and serve as another reason to bypass the library for stuff.  No wonder people get their ebooks from Amazon….it is EASY!  Easy is what the users want, medical library ebooks in their current state are not easy, they are a royal pain. 

Why bother?!  We try to make things easily available and barriers keep getting thrown up.  It is enough to drive you batty.  According to ReadWriteWeb, mobile Internet usage has doubled every year since 2009….so this problem isn’t going away.   Hopefully in the near future I won’t be asking why bother with the mess of ebooks.

Elsevier Boycott, My Thoughts

The recent publishing brouhaha has been about Elsevier.  Mathematician, Tim Gowers, published a blog post where he complained about Elsevier’s very high prices, bundling practices, negotiation tactics, and their attempt to stop the move to OA and their lobbying support of SOPA and PIPA. He has made a conscious effort not to publish in Elsevier titles and also refuse to referee any articles.  Gower hopes that that other science disciplines besides mathematicians will follow suit.

“Even if so many mathematicians refused to cooperate with Elsevier that the quality of their journals plummeted, that wouldn’t necessarily force Elsevier to change its ways, since it could continue to bundle its by now rubbishy mathematics journals together with important journals in physics, chemistry and biology. However, it would be a powerful gesture — perhaps even powerful enough for other sciences to follow suit eventually — and at least mathematics would be free of the problem.”

Elsevier’s Publishing Model Might Go Up in Smoke is a recent and rather simplistic article in Forbes that erroneously states or over exaggerates (hopefully it is the later) the lack of expenses necessary for publishing journals online. 

“Academic publishing is a very good game indeed if you can manage to get into it. As the publisher the work is created at the expense of others, for free to you. There are no advances, no royalties, to pay. The editing, the checking, the decisions about whether to publish, these are all also done for free to you. And the market, that’s every college library in the world and they’re very price insensitive indeed.

Back when physical, paper, copies of the journals were an essential part of any scientists’ life the cost structure could, perhaps, be justified. It is expensive to typeset, proofread, complex texts and then print them in numbers of hundreds or perhaps low thousands. However, now that everything is moving/has moved online then the amounts charged for access to the journals seems less defensible. More like the exploitation of a monopoly position in fact.”

Geez I thought Forbes was a fairly decent magazine. Please tell me I am just totally reading this article wrong and Tim Worstall is writing in tongue and cheek.  I’m not privy to the specific costs of publishing journals but after sitting on the Library Advisory Board of one major medical journal, I know there are still significant costs to publishing online.  I don’t know if it is cheaper than in print or more expensive, but it is certainly not negligible like Worstall implies.  There are server costs, maintenance, upgrades, etc. and you have to pay the people doing all that stuff. Going online can bring a loss in advertising revenue.  In print Publishers could sell multiple ads for an issue. The ads would often appear between articles. There are no ads appearing between articles online.  They usually only have the limited space of the borders of their web page.  In print, some publishers could sell multiple ads per space depending on the subscribers.  For example on pg 42 an add for Lipitor might appear in copies that go to cardiologists while an ad for Advair would be on pg 42 in the copies for internal medicine doctors.  I am by no means supporting predatory pricing practices of publishers or other library vendors, I just think the Forbes article is a poorly written piece which does nothing more than to inflame both sides.  

Ars Technica wrote the short article asking the question, as Researchers boycott publisher; will they embrace instant publishing?  The article briefly describes the Elsevier boycott by mainly math and physical sciences researchers and asks whether something like Faculty of 1000’s  F1000 Research will change academic publishing.

“When a manuscript is submitted to F1000R, an editor will provide a basic sanity check and, if it passes, the paper will immediately be published under a Creative Commons license. Only after it’s online will the journal arrange for reviewers to perform peer review on it. Reviewers’ scope will be limited to the scientific validity of the results and won’t include an evaluation of the paper’s significance. Other researchers will be able to attach comments to the paper that will act a bit like informal reviews. F1000R will also host any large datasets associated with the publications.”

That definitely is an interesting way to publish articles. Not sure if it would work or not, but it is an interesting concept.  In order for it to work you have to get a group of people who are going to read the articles then are willing to critique it and write educated comments and evaluations.  That is a lot to ask when there is yet no incentive for researchers to do it.  

That leads me to what I perceive is the force driving this publishing problem, academia and advancement. The current academic system rewards people who publish in high impact journals and as long as you have people willing to cross the picket line, so to speak, and publish in those high impact journals, the publishers will keep publishing.   You can’t tell me that a struggling PostDoc isn’t going to try to get their article in the highest peer reviewed journal possible in their discipline.  If that happens to be an Elsevier title, then the boycott is conveniently forgotten. But wait, what if there are no established researchers to provide the peer review or editing because they are boycotting?  Again I don’t see a lack of willing reviewers or editors.  Because of the way academia works, there are more researchers who need the high impact journals than journals that need researchers. 

Yet it seesm the boycott is gaining ground.  According Michael Kelley,Library Journal, the Petition Targeting Elsevier’s Business Practices Begins to SnowballTyler Neylon organized an online petition for academics to pledge they won’t publish, referee, or do editorial work for any Elsevier journals, “unless they radically change how they operate.”  Kelley notes that as of Tuesday (1/31/2012) the petition already as 2284 signatures and many comments critical of Elsevier.

Gower correctly mentions that Elsevier isn’t the only publisher out there with heavy handed tactics.  There are others and we in the library world have heard and seen this same rant many times over.  Gower also isn’t the first to boycott a publisher.  We’ve seen this all before with other publishers and scientists and yet the pricing model remains the same.  In fact Kelley reminds us of the PLoS petition directed at scientific and medical publishers to make research literature available through free online public archives. That petition dwarfed the Neylon petition with close to 34,000 signatures from 180 nations.  So how did that work out?  Well according to PLoS, everything remained the same until they jumped into the mix to liberate the literature.  Personally, I think things are still pretty much the same despite all of the protests, boycotts, rants, flames, etc.  If things had changed would there be a Gower boycott?

Everybody is all a twitter (litteraly and figuratively) about the boycott.  It is the news du jour and I do hope something positive comes out of it.  However, I am not holding my breath.  Perahps I am just in a cynical mood today (I am a GenXer afterall so finding me not in a cynical mood is quite rare), but I read these stories and all I can think is that it is the same ol’ same ol’.  I can’t get excited about Gower’s boycott or any other ones.  I can’t get excited that  publishing models will finally change if all of the authors and reviewers boycott, because everybody doesn’t boycott.  I guess I am like this because I feel these type boycotts just really don’t work.  Part of the reason is they are only boycotting half of the problem.  Academia’s advancement structure feeds into this problem. Gower’s boycott doesn’t address that.  Gower’s boycott doesn’t give alternatives to PostDocs who aren’t tenured.  If they are supposed to be good little boycotting researchers, where do they publish without hurting their chances of advancement? I think it is going to take a cataclysmic event within the publishing/library/research world for things to change.  Boycotts are not the cataclysmic event.