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E-book Revolution Changes, Challenges Healthcare

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, May 22, 2012

If you've flown lately, you've seen them everywhere: e-books, running on Kindles, on iPads, on any number of tablet devices. Get ready to see them a lot in healthcare too.

Prompted by an announcement that yet another standard desk reference had been released in e-book form, I wonder if we've reached a tipping point yet where the standard nurse or doctor's desk reference on paper has gone the way of the telephone book.  I normally recycle these phone company dinosaurs as soon as they land on my doorstep.

Think of the upside. E-books are fully indexed. Any occurrence of a word is searchable with a touch. Paper-based indexing systems just can't compete.

Publishers can update e-books as often as necessary. Paper-based desk reference books are still updated at least (and often, at most) once a year.

But e-books aren't free. In fact, according to one medical librarian I talked with recently, they can cost more per copy than the individual paper editions of the same book, particularly when purchased by an institution and not by an individual.

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