by: Alexander Chamessian, MS2

For students, so much of the iPad’s utility stems from the ability to read textbooks.

Realizing this, publishers have teamed up with app develops to find the best way to transform paper books into e-books for the iPad.  Arguably, the most promising and advanced app in the arena is Inkling.

You can read more about Inkling in prior features we have done on the company.

I was curious to see how a popular anatomy textbook – Essential Clinical Anatomy (ECA) – would perform as an Inkling e-book. As an anatomy textbook, I think ECA is one of the best, but that’s not what I’ll review below. Rather, I was more interested in how peculiarities of an anatomy book would be represented and enhanced by the Inkling form.

Anatomy is a highly visual field. The images are as important – if not even more so – than the text, so that is the first thing I focused my attention on. As with other Inkling books, all figures are embedded in crisp, clear text. Selecting the figure brings up an isolated view that magnifies the image and provides a caption. Using the pinch maneuver, the image can be expanded with almost no grainy pixels. I was quite impressed with the brilliance and overall quality of the figures.

In fact, I find the images much superior to those in the actual paper text version of ECA. But what I found most useful is the ability to replace the image labels with question marks through the ‘test yourself’ function. For anatomy studying, this feature is a god-send. Most students have to buy a separate flashcard set (often for a hefty sum) in order to get the labels off of images, but not so with Inkling. There is great value here then, because you’re effectively getting two products for the price of one.

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One of the most popular components of ECA are the “Clinical Blue Boxes”, which relate anatomy to clinical problems and practice. In the Inkling version, Clinical Blue Boxes are set apart from the text in the same way figures are, so that one can focus on the Blue Box contents by itself. Moreover, there are embedded links to relevant text figures so that one can quickly pull up a needed figure without having to do much digging.

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Easy navigation, in fact, characterizes the whole Inkling experience. Several times I wanted to jump to a specific anatomical structure. The robust and rapid search function enabled me to go directly to the content I was interested in. Similarly, the ample use of headers and sub-headers in the navigation panel made it easy to go to specific sections in the book.

My one quibble is that Inkling doesn’t enable one to quickly jump to a subsection within a larger chapter section. Rather, you are taken to the beginning of the chapter section and then must scroll through to the specific spot. It can sometimes be annoying.

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Inkling offers some markup abilities that I found very useful. Selecting text gives the user the option to add a note, highlight, search, copy or define. All of these features are very handy. Bookmarking is also easy and functional.

One novel feature that I think has much promise is the public commenting/annotating capability. At any section throughout the book, one can post a public note that any other Inkling user can see. I really like the idea of being able to see what other people are thinking when reading the same info as me.

But as it stands, the public annotation function is not very useful because there just aren’t very many users or notes yet. As Inkling becomes more widely adopted, I think learning anatomy and many other subjects will be made more enjoyable and productive by this function.

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Beyond the transformation of ECA into an Inkling book is some new content as well. Each chapter comes with high-yield quizzes that test one’s understanding of the anatomy information. The questions as well as the quiz interface, I thought, were very well done. There are also a number of case studies that accompany each chapter; these go more in depth and ask several probing questions related to each case. Overall, I thought the quizzes and case studies provided much added value.

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Taken together, I think Essential Clinical Anatomy on Inkling is an incredible resource. The rich text and media, robust navigation and annotation capabilities, and the added content made my reading of ECA on Inkling even more enjoyable and beneficial than reading the paper text. I wish I had had this a year ago when I was learning anatomy.

Price:

  • $64.99 ($9.99/chapter)

Likes:

  • Rich text and images
  • “Test yourself” feature that removes labels from images
  • Robust navigation and annotation capabilities
  • Public comments/annotation function
  • Additional interactive quizzes and case studies
  • Ability to buy single chapters rather than the whole book

Dislikes:

  • Price. You get what you pay for with this app, but that doesn’t change the fact that $64.99 is still quite a bit of money to students on a budget.
  • Public comment/annotation function is not useful at present time due to low number of uses
  • Inability to navigate to specific subsections within book chapters