It was only a matter of time before partnerships between medical textbook publishers and the iPad development community emerged. One key partnership the Wall Street Journal just announced is between ScrollMotion (app developer) and McGraw-Hill’s Education division, with the purpose of developing e-books for the iPad. And why does this matter? Because if you’re a medical professional, you most certainly have read or own a medical text from McGraw-Hill.
McGraw-Hill is the publisher of Harrison’s Internal Medicine, Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery, the Case-File series and many more medical texts. They acquired Apple and Lange Inc in 2007, further expanding their vast medical library. Many of us know of McGraw-Hill via Access Medicine, the online portal to their large collection of medical texts that is available in almost every academic institution in the country.
Many pundits feel the iPad’s use of an LED screen verse E-ink (think Kindle) will dissuade readers from purchasing the iPad for reading purposes. The principle argument is the LED screen will cause more eye strain after prolonged use, but the medical community should embrace e-books on the iPad because we read textbooks in a different way than traditional readers.
Medical books are not often read cover to cover, instead key chapters are often referenced when needed. Although the majority of medical professionals, myself included, will attest to reading Harrison’s frequently, it’s doubtful that any of us have read the massive text with the purpose of reading it front to back. Also, could you imagine seeing key anatomic figures, pathologic pictures, and diagrams in E-ink text? The dull black and gray colors would look awful. On the iPad’s 9.7 inch 1024 x 768 pixel display, these full-color diagrams and figures would be far more aesthetically pleasing. Viewing detailed anatomic figures would be especially useful, highlighted in one of our recent medical app reviews.
It should be noted that a flagship McGraw-Hill book, Harrison’s Manual of Medicine, is already in the App Store via other third party developers. But we haven’t been impressed with the conversion of this medical text to mobile form, mainly because of the limited size. Pictures and diagrams cannot be fully appreciated on the iPhone’s 3.5 inch screen.
Since the iPad’s iBook store will be competing directly with the Kindle, we can assume the pricing of these books will be similar. Surprisingly, the Kindle does not have many of the McGraw-Hill flagship textbooks I mentioned above. The limiting display factors that E-ink causes could be a reason these texts are not available. However, McGraw-Hill does have many medical study guides in e-book form, such as the Case-Files series. The Case-File e-books for the Kindle are priced at almost 40% discounts from the original text. Although such a high discount is not likely, many of the medical reference texts available for the Kindle are discounted by approximately 20%.
This type of savings, along with the ability to search and review massive text books on a great display, should have the medical community excited about the prospects of e-books on the iPad. Now if the developers can somehow add the ability to highlight and annotate using the rumored handwriting keyboard….but that might be too much to ask.