Apple announced today the release of iBooks 2 which is supposed to revolutionize the etextbook market.
The area of ebooks is very tumultuous in general but then add specialty books like medical texts, volume usage (libraries buy one book for many to use), license agreements, platforms, and easy discoverability and accessibility and it becomes a giant quagmire. Additionally, I think major medical publishers have been v-e-r-y slow to get into the ebook market. Oh yeah they had ebooks for a while, but those were produced similar to ejournals. They were available online and accessible usually by desk top or laptop. The Kindle started the movement but the iPad just turn things on its ear.
Many of the ebooks medical libraries have bought are from established publishers like the AccessMedicine books through McGraw Hill, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins books through Ovid, or multiple different publisher titles through Rittenhouse or STATRef. The one problem is that while most of these books are online, they are really only accessible via regular computer. The vast majority have not been formatted for the iPad or other platforms. (Interesting since Apple just announced they are partnering with McGraw Hill to make textbooks on the iPad, but it seems like they haven’t really done that with the Access textbooks.) Now for some books not being optimized isn’t a big deal because they display alright using the iPad browser. However even if they display correctly the publishers’ sites make it MISERABLE to access the book. This was a major problem BEFORE mobile readers. Librarians world wide for years bemoaned the difficulty their users had at finding and accessing their ebook packages. The silos that publishers host their ebooks makes it difficult for library users to access titles. The problem hasn’t changed now that we have tablets, it has just gotten worse.
The one saving grace prior to tablets was that many accepted that ebooks were accessible by traditional computers. But when smartphones came out people starting accessing the web using their phones. They were beginning to access online resources via the phone when they weren’t near a computer. Instead of walking down the hall they whipped out their phone. The iPad just continued to ween people off traditional computers. Instead of using smartphones doctors were using iPads and they were using them so much at work that the traditional lab coat got a make over to include an iPad size pocket. People not walking to a computer to access the web, they have the web with them and they want their online texts.
In the past when I would talk to various publishers and library vendors about accessing their texts via mobile device (pre iPad and Kindle) they would smile and gently say that nobody wants to read a book on a phone. Well I disagreed. What do you think Unbound Medicine or Skyscape did? They made texts (and other medical programs) available for handheld devices. Originally they did that with PDAs now they have transitioned to smartphones. Heck they have some of the major publishers, McGraw Hill, Elsevier, LWW, etc. on their site all ready to be used on a smartphone or the iPad (they don’t have Kindle or Nook stuff). Yet the publishers, while trying to push their own silo suite of online books, have been slow to adapt to technology and user demands. The writing was on the wall folks.
Medical librarians are left trying to figure things out. We have the silos of ebooks that were difficult to find and access prior to mobile devices and now we are getting more users asking us for ebooks. What do we say or do? Do we tell them we have ebooks…sort of? Yeah you can access it online but no it isn’t optimized for the tablet or smartphone so it may or may not be readable. We have quickly moved from ebooks as simply online books on the computer to a portable information resource that can be accessed anywhere without lugging around a computer.Share on Facebook
The SCR CONNECTions webinar, Unwrapping Mobile Technology Trends for the New Year is now available in the SCR CONNECTions archives http://nnlm.gov/scr/training/webmeeting.html#Archives. The PowerPoint presentation which has a lot of great links to the references she mentions is also available on the website.
The webinar is very good for librarians new to the area of mobile devices. Emily Hurst, the presenter, discusses smartphones, tablets and e-readers. Mobile devices in libraries is still fairly new. According to Emily’s survey most of the people attending the webinar use them for education and instruction, but there were still those who don’t use it in the library. What was interesting was LSU mentioned in the chat that they use mobile devices to check off campus access. That is how the systems librarian and I use our personal mobile devices at work too. Often we are told a resource is unavailable off campus, but of course we are told this while we are work (on campus). Now when we are notified of problems either the systems librarian or I turn off wifi on our smartphone and use 3G to access the off campus server and then try and access the problem resource for troubleshooting.
Emily also described the differences between mobile sites and mobile apps. There was a brief discussion about the pros and cons for each. Emily asked the question, “Providing direct access to a specific type of data, program, or information on a mobile device is best archived with a… mobile site or mobile app?” While most of the people in the webinar answered mobile app, I feel the question was kind of a loaded one. I think the real answer is, “it depends.” It depends on how you want to use the resource, does it need to be loaded and “on” all the time regardless of 3G or wifi connectivity? If so then you need an app. How often does the information change and how robust is your computer programming skills? If your information changes quite often and you don’t have a cadre of computer programmers then you need to go with an mobile website. Finally you need to think cross platform. If all of your users have iPhones then that is great you only need to develop one app. But if your users have a variety of devices and you don’t have variety of programmers, you might consider a mobile site which can be read by any mobile device.
Two valuable resources Emily mentions are CNET’s Updates Tablets Test Results and Yale’s Mobile Device Options for Healthcare Professional. CNET’s is a listing comparing LOTS of tablet devices with each other so that people can make an informed decision as to which one they would like. The nice thing is this list is updated regularly. Yale’s is a listing of various resources (phone and tablet) and healthcare things to consider prior to purchasing a device.
The last technology discussed was the e-reader. The nice thing about Kindle is you DON’T have to have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle app on your Android, iPhone or iPad. It is important to remember that e-readers aren’t just for books. Librarians might want to consider creating or selecting PDFs, Word docs, audio files, or collection of works for specific users or groups. This works especially well in outreach and education endeavors. Suzanne Shurtz and Megan von Isenburg describe using e-readers in medical education (Shurtz, S., & von Isenburg, M. (2011). Exploring e-readers to support clinical medical education: two case studies Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 99 (2), 110-117 DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.99.2.002) and although medical students did use them at the bedside they said they were very helpful in their studies.
Mobile devices are a part of our daily lives. The largest growth in smartphones was from women and older individuals, as Emily notes this really indicates that smartphones have gone mainstream. This is a great webinar for those new to the technology in medical libraries.Share on Facebook
Note: I am on jury duty this week. Depending on if I am called or not, there may or may not be more posts for the rest of the week and into next week.
If you aren’t grandfathered into Verizon’s or AT&T’s unlimited data plans and you don’t have Sprint, you just might want to think twice before you ask your favorite iPhone assistant, Siri, to look something up or read that text for you. According to several reports, iPhone 4S users use almost twice as much data as users of the iPhone 4. The culprit it seems is Siri. According to this Forbes article (and others), every time you ask Siri a question or tell Siri to do something it has to send your voice commands to Apple’s servers to understand what you are saying. So even if you are asking it to play a song on your phone that is in your library, Siri has to go out to Apple’s servers to understand your command just to play that song.
So as fun as Siri might be, you might want to limit your use depending your data plan and whether you are on wifi or not.Share on Facebook
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Last week I wrote a post about iMedicalApps launching a forum to foster the discussion of medical apps. Well I am announcing the launch of the Medical Librarian’s Corner, an area within iMedicalApps Forum dedicated to librarians discussing the use of apps, mobile devices, licensing, support, teaching, etc.
The people at iMedicalApps noticed that a medical librarians help play an important part in the “distribution of knoweledge and useful resources” and can provide help to medical professionals dealing with information overload. So they created a specific corner of the forum (of which I am the moderator) for medical librarians to discuss everything and anything related to apps and mobile devices.
New to smartphones and apps, or are you an old pro? The forum will provide a great place for newbies and veterans to discuss and post questions. So if you are interested, create an account, login and start discussing. It is my hope that this can be a robust and helpful area for medical librarians.
Since a blank forum is a little bit like the blank page in the typewriter staring back at you, I have already started a discussion thread. What libraries have the best list of apps and mobile friendly websites? However, if you have something else that is on your mind, please feel free to post it. The only way this forum can be of help is if people participate.
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My experiment with Virgin Mobile and Android has come to an end a bit earlier than I expected. My Motorola Triumph came to an unexpected demise over Christmas. It was mostly my fault but my husband thinks that the Christmas elves had something to do with it. I plugged my phone into the outlet next to my bed at my sister’s house. The charging cord did not reach to the end table so I put the phone on the floor next to the wall. When my sister put a comforter on the bed she accidentally stepped on the phone cracking the screen. The phone technically worked but I could only see about a 1 inch width of the screen down the length of the phone. That seriously limited my smartphone usage.
Tired of hearing my complaints about my phone prior to being stepped on, (camera constantly failed, ringer unexpectantly went silent or loud despite my settings, it rebooted whenever, etc.) my husband declared that my Christmas present would be an iPhone 4s and I just had to pick the carrier. (I secretly wonder if my husband was in cahoots with my sister.)
After comparing the apples, oranges, and grapes of mobile service plans among AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, that there is no concensus as to which mobile provider is better. There are almost an equal number of people who love/hate AT&T as they do Verizon and Sprint. I also learned several other things during this time. First, I don’t hate Androids. I simply like iPhones better because I like the simplicity and overall user experience with them. Androids have much more flexibility but I don’t want/need that. Additionally because there are many Android manufacturers there is wide varience in the product. I don’t know whether my Triumph was a lemon or all Triumphs are crummy devices, but it didn’t perform as I think it should have. If I have an iPhone I don’t have worry about that type of variance. Second, Virgin Mobile is a great way to get the smartphone experience at a fraction of the smartphone cost (compared to AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint). Its network is limited but if you live within the network, it isn’t too bad for the price. While I am not on Virgin Mobile any more, my husband still is and he is happy. He has 300 min. of talk, unlimited data, and unlimited texting for $25/month. If that plan suits you, you cannot beat that price. Things get a little more expensive and the differences between VM and the big 3 begin to get closer as you get more voice minutes. I was at 1200 min. of talk, unlimited data, and unlimited texting for $45/month. I will be paying $65 to AT&T for 900 min. of talk, 2G of data. I won’t have texting plan but I’m not a heavy texter so I will see how I do at .20 cent a minute. In the past I have observed my data usage and I hover around 800MB to 1.3G. So while I will be technically getting less stuff from AT&T, I am getting what I need at only $20 more than VM. To me $20 more is worth having the iPhone after having spent time with my lemon droid.
I considered Verizon, but the service cost more than AT&T and I really like the ability to surf and talk at the same time. So now begins my adventure with discovering my new 4s phone. I am glad that I decided to try things with Android and Virgin Mobile. I am now very comfortable helping users with their Androids as well as those who have iPhones. I enjoyed discovering the different apps and ways to make things different. The nice thing is that my husband still has an Android, and I can always “test” things on his phone to see how things work compared to the iPhone.
So even though I am back to the iPhone, I wouldn’t say this experiment was a total loss. I became quite familiar with another mobile platform and learned a lot of things in the process. Androids (perhaps not the Motorola Triumph) offer a great smartphone experience. You are not “losing” anything by not having an iPhone.Share on Facebook
So you got a new smartphone for Christmas and the first thing you want to do is start loading and trying out all these apps you keep hearing about. Well it might interest you to do know that iMedicalApps has just launched a new medical apps forum for the medical community to discuss mobile apps and technology.
Not only will there be general discussions about various apps but they will have specialty areas for people to discuss specific issues without the post getting lost or bogged down in the general discussion area. In addition the editors and writers on iMedicalApps will be answering questions about mobile technology in the forum.
iMedicalApps is a great resource for reading articles about medical apps for smartphones, hopefully the forum can take that information and extend it and keep it current and practical. I’ve registered and will be either lurking or posting or combination of the two, it will be interesting to see how it evolves. Unfortunately they didn’t have librarian as a choice for profession. Kind of bummed on that.Share on Facebook
It is the gift giving time of year and some people are looking at smartphones as gifts. Since the three major carriers have the iPhone, people now have to decide whether they want an iPhone or Android. David Gewirtz at ZDNet provides a fairly good pros/cons list on the iPhone and Android to help you with your decision.
I only have a few things to add to his list.
Support:If your hospital or institution supports a certain type of phone, that can weigh heavy in your decision making. However, a lot of medical institutions are still clinging to Blackberrys and many don’t allow personal devices (i.e. your own smartphone) to access or sync to their network. If this is the case then you might want to look at what a lot of your peers have and possibly consider getting what they have. Ok, I know that sounds like a popularity contest of buying what your friends or coworkers have, but there is safety in numbers. The people in your group will be talking about the best apps they use for certain things. If you are a doctor or nurse then it will most likely be the best apps your colleagues use to help treat patients. If you are librarian, it might be what most of your patrons are using so you can provide better customer service. As David mentioned there are a lot of apps on both platforms but not all apps are on all platforms. Knowing what apps they use can be helpful and having the same platform means that app is available for your device AND it will perform the same (not all apps perform the same on Android and iPhone). If you don’t have institutional support, your mobile peers might also be your second line of tech support. When your phone is misbehaving and an Internet search does not reveal the cure, you are more likely to ask around your group for help before you spend money at the Genius Bar or Geek Squad.
Customization: I know David mentioned that the Android beats the iPhone hands down on customization, and he is totally right. But what you have to ask yourself is whether you really can/should customize. An iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone, there is no difference between them except for different generations. Heck if you sync through iTunes they all are running the same OS version. Androids are the Wild West of customization. Not all are created equally, not all phones are running the latest OS and not all are going to be upgraded to the latest OS. You can download things to further customize your phone such as different fonts, icons, widgets, web browsers (I’m loving Dolphin right now), change/customize the boot animation (usually the carrier’s logo that shows when you reboot your phone), customize the lock screen, etc. With great customization comes great responsibility, you can really accidentally do something that makes your Android a real pain in the butt and is hard to undo. Right now I am trying to figure out what on earth I did that screwed up my Android so that my camera doesn’t work. My camera won’t take pictures, every time I tap the camera icon I get the message “The application Camera (process com.android.camera) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.” I can sort “fix” it by rebooting the phone. But that only works if once the phone is rebooted I go straight into camera (waiting an hour later I get the same error message) and I can only take 1-3 pictures before the camera app freezes and fails. Now I did very little customization, but was it something I did that screwed it up? Is it the OS? Do I need to buy a bigger memory card? All I want is for my camera to work.
Not everyone should customize. I personally would trade all of the damn customization in my Android for my camera to work again. There was something very nice about having the limited customization of an iPhone. I didn’t have to think, my phone just worked. That is very enticing to a lot of people, many of which who don’t realize it. But some people LOVE exploiting all of the possible ways to customize their phone…if that is the case then they need an Android. But if you are an average person who just wants their phone to work and thinks of phone customization as the color of its case or different ring tones then just skip the whole customization argument and look at other arguments for iPhone vs. Android.
Address Book: I would make this a mini point. The Android uses Google Address book for your contacts list. If you don’t use Google Address book or don’t want your Google Address book added to the contacts then get an iPhone. iPhones also do a MUCH better job importing and syncing your contacts than Androids. Just do a simple search on the Internet for Android and contacts and you get a whole bunch of pages about people having problems. However, if there are other reasons why you like/want an Android the address/contact mess isn’t a deal killer, it is just a real pain in the butt that you will have to work at to fix. It took me forever to straighten it out but once I got it fixed, it has since stayed fixed.
Hopefully the ZDNet article and my thoughts can help you decide if you are on the fence. Both the Android and the iPhone are good devices that are making huge inroads in the medical profession. Although work doesn’t pay for my device and it isn’t supported, I think I am better at helping the doctors and nurses in my institution with their (personal) smartphones and suggesting helpful tips, ideas, and apps.Share on Facebook
The dead car has been replaced. Thanksgiving is over, and sick kids are healthy (cross my fingers and knock on wood). So I am back and blogging again at a more regular interval.
Yesterday RIM announced it will be releasing Mobile Fusion (in late March) to work on corporate iPhones and Androids. Mobile Fusion is software that will allow companies the option of linking employees’ personal iPhones and Androids to the corporate BlackBerry network without compromising security.
So what does this mean for hospitals? Well I hope it is just another step in the process for IT to accept iPhones and Androids as more than consumer devices. (Crossing fingers, toes, eyes, and anything else that might help.) According to Reuters. “many workers no prefer using their own Apple and Android powered devices to access corporate emails, raising security questions for corporations.” RIM hopes to address these concerns with the new software. Until now these concerns were being addressed by smaller niche companies that were offering security software or management systems for non-BlackBerry phones.
While Fusion will hopefully be a new revenue source for RIM, it doesn’t address the drop in sales of BlackBerrys. According to Reuters, “RIM’s slice of the lucrative U.S. smartphone market fell to 9 percent in the third quarter, down from 24 percent a year earlier.” IT departments that don’t use Fusion and still insist on BlackBerrys will have users with institutional devices that are quickly becoming a minority platform. Why is that a big deal, after all everything will be secure? Well a minority platform will have less work related apps meaning it will become increasingly less relevant and more employees will be double carrying (using both a BlackBerry and an iPhone or Android) which doesn’t help with security.
Hopefully this Spring and Summer, some of you hospital librarians will be able to use your Apple devices thanks to your IT department and Fusion.Share on Facebook
Every other commercial on TV is about whose service is faster, better, clearer, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. AT&T says you can surf and talk on their phone at the same time. Verizon says they have the most coverage. Sprint brags about how it is the only nation wide network with unlimited data.
The TUAW reported on a performance study done by Metrico Wireless that compared the carriers to determine who has the fastest and most reliable network. According to the study, AT&T has the fastest network for downloading data. Verizon is better with calls because it has the fewest call failures. Sprint was the worst in both download speeds and dropped calls.
However this study only looked at the download times and dropped calls for the iPhone 4S. Even though that is a very popular phone, there are a lot of other phones out there in the market. Isn’t the network speed and call dropping issue also dependent on the phone as well as the carrier? I am not sure about network speed but I know certain phones drop calls more than others. Could another phone like a specific Android device get better download speeds on Sprint than AT&T? I don’t know, but I am curious. Maybe somebody with more knowledge can answer that for me.
Computerworld’s Matt Hamblen, wrote an interesting response to Metrico’s study on his blog post “Smartphone speed tests and weighing network performance.” Matt praises the testing firm and notes that the information is interesting, he also says it will have more relevance to the providers than the customers. Why? First, customers are creatures of habit, they tend not to switch carriers. Second, consumers pick carriers for many reasons besides just network performance. They look at cost, phone selection, coverage in their area, etc. However for those that value data speeds over voice, or voice over data, having that information might tip their decision.
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Last week was a busy week for me. Monday I attended a great class, “Information Anywhere: Mobile Technology, Libraries and Health,” taught by Technology Coordinator of the Greater Midwest Region, Max Anderson. It was very interesting, we learned about various apps and devices used in the medical and health science workplace. We also got a chance to create our own mobile friendly website using Google Site. Google Site might be the perfect resource to create a quick and simple mobile website, but it would work in a pinch for most places that don’t have a lot of tech people who can easily create a whole new mobile website for the library. The big thing to consider when beginning to create a mobile website is to remember that the mobile site is not a mini version of the full website. It is a unique site that is used differently because of the size of smartphone screens AND the way/why we use our smartphone to access a resources.
Another interesting part of the class was the discussion of QR codes. I have been seeing these square codes everywhere, from grave markers, party busses, hotels, in the back of a book, and out on the street. While have seen them in a lot of places, and I have been thinking of the various ways they could be used in a meaningful way in libraries. During the class we learned how we could not only create a QR code but also brand the code by adding our logo. Max slides showed a blue one with NLM in the middle, I couldn’t find that online but here here are some other examples of QR codes with logos. We also did some brain storming on how QR codes could be used in the library. One example that really resonated with me was posting the QR code on the book shelves letting people to scan the code to learn about online textbooks that aren’t on the shelves. Our library just discussed this problem last week in a staff meeting. As we buy more and more online texts and even online reference texts how to we guide people to the updated books that aren’t on the shelf. There are an awful lot of people who still do a lot of shelf browsing and don’t use the catalog to find books. Perhapswe could add the QR code in an obvious area on the shelves and have link to that stack’s subject area to online text books. It is a thought. I’m not sure how it effective it will be but if you could figure out how to measure usage of those codes that could be one way to measure if people are clicking on them.
Is your library using QR codes, if so how? Perhaps you aren’t using QR codes but you have an idea on how they can be used, leave a comment so we all can learn.Share on Facebook