When Apple announced iBooks 2 and iBooks author, there was much excitement amongst the medical tech community about the possibility of physicians creating their own interactive textbooks.
Last Friday saw the release of the first interactive medical textbook, created by Dr. Ed Wallitt, Founder of Podmedics.com.
We recently reviewed PodMedics, a UK based site which offers a range of medical podcasts for medical students and junior doctors alike.
The iBook entitled, The Podmedics Do Surgery, is a free medical textbook designed for medical students. It combines text, interactive images, video lectures and questions in one place and is a first for medical education.
iMedicalApps was able to exclusively catch up with Dr. Wallitt and find out more about the creation process including his experiences using iBooks Author.
Why did you pick the iBooks format?
Dr. Wallitt: The new iBooks format provides the opportunity to provide a wide range of different types of learning materials in one integrated textbook. It goes beyond just simple text, allowing you to insert interactive images, videos and review questions. This is perfect for us at Podmedics because we have been using these materials on our website.
Secondly, we saw the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of this brand-new and exciting technological advance in medical education.
What was your experience of using iBooks author?
Dr. Wallitt: On the whole, very positive. If you have any experience with using applications from iWorks such as Keynote, Pages or Numbers it is very easy to pick up. Myself, Stevan Wing and Bernard Ho managed to put together the whole iBook within a couple of weeks, working on it on the odd evening and weekend.
Saying that, there are still a number of issues within the program. This mainly has to do with crafting the flow of your document so that it displays well in both portrait and landscape mode on the iPad. We had to do a number of revisions because of this problem, and it cost us a significant amount of time.
Many authors have voiced concerns about the user agreement. What is your opinion of this?
Dr. Wallitt: It is easy to understand why people might be upset with having to hand over their work to Apple for approval. However, this is not really different to the state of play within the App Store and is fairly consistent across the whole industry. Most companies that provide creative tools that allow users to create content for their platforms have a similar end user agreement.
At Podmedics we did not spend a long time looking at this because we wanted to produce a free textbook and the user agreement is therefore not as punitive towards us compared with paid books.
Could you elaborate on the overall difficulty of textbook creation from a technical viewpoint?
Dr. Wallitt: From a technical perspective it was incredibly easy to create. In the past, to create a similar textbook would have required a detailed knowledge of Xcode, Objective-C and Cocoa touch. However with iBooks author, Apple have created a gateway for anyone with any word processing ability to create compelling and high-quality content.
What were the major problems encountered in the process?
Dr. Wallitt: The biggest issue for us has been managing to get the completed iBook uploaded and published on the iBook store. The textbook iBook store is currently not available in the UK, but UK authors of iBooks can still publish them on the US store. However, we have still not even been able to successfully upload the iBook, and Apple doesn’t provide any helpful suggestions about why this is occurring. I’m sure these are just teething problems, but looking at the Apple support forums there seem to be a lot of other very frustrated people having the same problem.
We have, however, made a direct link to our iBook available for people to download, and this seems to work quite well.
In your opinion, do you think ordinary physicians would be able to create decent textbooks using this setup?
Dr. Wallitt: Yes absolutely. From a technical perspective it is very easy. I suspect the issue for ordinary physicians will be access to open source medical images and videos to create variety and compelling content for their textbooks.
Do you have any plans to create more iBooks?
Dr. Wallitt: Yes, we are planning to produce a whole series of iBooks covering topics throughout medicine, surgery, and the clinical specialties. In addition to that, we are planning to expand upon our current iBook, ‘The Podmedics do Surgery’, by adding more chapters.
Were there any further interesting issues encountered during the publishing process?
Dr. Wallitt: We have had great difficulties in getting our iBook published. This is not because Apple have not approved the content, but because the process of uploading iBooks to the iBook store seems to be broken at the moment. Additionally, Apple is not currently providing any useful support to authors of iBooks to resolve the problems that they seem to be having. Saying that, iBooks author and its publishing infrastructure is only a few weeks old, so I’m sure these issues will eventually be ironed out.
Given that it is still possible to export completed iBooks manually, and publish them independently I would still encourage anyone who had an interest in creating an iBook to do so. We certainly have had great fun!
-Combination of interactive features offer insight into potential future of medical education
-This textbook, while relatively basic, shows how engaging users with interactive learning can be beneficial. Hopefully, we will see more interactive textbooks created by physicians arriving in the Apple Bookstore.
-Check out this thread in the forum for more information related to physician-led iBook development
To add it to your iPad (with iBooks 2) you need to:
-Click the link above with your iPad (it will take some time to download) and then choose the option to ‘Open in iBooks’ OR
-Download the book from the link above on your home computer, and then drag it into iTunes. You should then be able to sync it to your iPad in the usual fashion.