The British Medical Journal is successfully converted from print to electronic format with the BMJ App

With mobile technology soaring in popularity, there has been a significant shift from traditional publishers to try and utilize this rapidly expanding market. A number of journals are now releasing electronic versions of their print issues to take advantage of the increase in mobile technology devices amongst physicians. The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the standard bearers in medical literature, released their app a little over a year ago now.

However, even that app allows access to limited content. Here, we take a look at another venerated journal – The British Medical Journal – to see how successful they were in making the jump from print to mobile.

The app itself is cleverly designed and an excellent example of a print journal converted into electronic form. The app has two sections:

  • a store, where users can download the current edition or previous issues
  • ‘My Library’, where previously downloaded issues can be read. Each issue is approximately 10MB in size so it is not a problem if you don’t have much space available.

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Reading an issue is easy on the iPads large screen but what is really impressive is the navigation through the journal. The table of contents is displayed down the left hand side of the screen and is navigated using touch gestures. The user can jump straight to an interesting article or alternatively, the journal can be navigated and read in the ‘normal’ fashion using swipe gestures. A small box at the bottom of the screen illustrates your location within the issue.

The impressive UI is further enhanced with a search function, bookmark function and an ability to share the particular article through email and social media. There are numerous little features that make this app work well e.g. links are clickable and the ability to click an authors name to find out more about them.

In addition to all the content supplied in the print journal, the BMJ app also contains live feeds of news, video, blogs, podcasts, clickable links, and graphics you can tap and expand to view in more detail. These live feeds from BMJ.com are interesting and helpful in staying up to date with the latest news. It is nice that there are no ads within this app although this is inevitably going to change as the BMJ are currently offering full page advertising positions. It will be interesting to see how this affects the UI.

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The ability to integrate the journal with social media is welcomed as is the ability to share articles via email. The UI is nicely rounded off with a range of organizational functions such as search, bookmark and text size adjustment.

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Early versions of this app were met with criticism as BMA members were being asked to pay to download the journal which they received in the post. However an update released in March this year meant that BMA members now get free access to the journal through the app. There is still some contention though as BMJ subscribers (who are non-BMA members) are still being asked to pay for issues-essentially paying twice for the same content. The BMJ app is free to download with a sample issue included, and a four week subscription costs £9.99. This provides you with instant access to the current issue plus the 3 subsequent issues. You can also buy past issues at the single issue price of £2.99.

With the advent of iOS 5 and Newstand, there remains an intriguing possibility to see other renowned journals on the iPad. It really is worth downloading the sample edition to see the possibilities for electronic medical journals in the future.

Price

  • Free app although requires subscription (See text for notes)

Likes

  • Easy journal library management
  • Impressive UI and navigation

Dislikes

  • Cost issue still facing BMJ subscribers who are not members of the BMA (such as institutions)
  • Subscription can only be bought in 4-week blocks.

Overall Rating

  • BMA members who read the BMJ should download this app due to its impressive interface and library management.
  • This app sets a standard which other journals should attempt to follow and potentially offers an insight into a time where electronic distribution of journals is the norm.

iTunes link:

Author:

Tom Lewis

Editor, iMedicalApps.com

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3 Responses to The British Medical Journal is successfully converted from print to electronic format with the BMJ App

  1. James Watto September 23, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly that this app is great, and lobbied for it to be free for BMA members. However it is not without faults, and I do feel that the above review (no offence intended) does somewhat gloss over these. Firstly on the original iPad it runs rather slowly in terms of opening the issue, I have timed this to take more than 30 seconds in some instances. Secondly the font sizes are unrealistic, to avoid eye strain realistically you have to have the font size set to large, this becomes a problem with some tables in the app where you have to reduce the font size to read the contents of the boxes, sometimes even then it doesn’t all fit and you miss the information. Unfortunately it is still prone to periodic crashing, although this is better than it once was. I am not trying to be too negative, I thoroughly enjoy reading the BMJ on my iPad every week, but it is still a work in progress.

  2. Tom Lewis September 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Hi James, thank you for your thoughts as it is important to cover all aspects of an app including its negatives. I was interested to read your issues regarding stability and loading times. I must confess I have an iPad 2 and have yet to experience those issues that you mention. It is obviously an important consideration though particularly for those with an original iPad. I think the font issue is quite subjective but thankfully the app does offer a method to change the text size.

    I’m glad you agree that it is a great app. I would love to see more journals available and accessible on the iPad.

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