Sunday, May 23, 2010

Practical Healthcare Epidemiology, 3rd Edition

In a moment of weakness, I agreed to review this textbook for JAMA. This required me to actually read it, something I probably should have considered before I said "yes" to the assignment.

I can’t paste my review here (I’ll link to it when it is published), but I can say that I truly liked this textbook: very readable, makes ample use of tables, figures, and bulleted lists, and the authors have (mostly) not succumbed to the temptation to drown the reader in exhaustive or excessive detail. So the book is, as advertised, very practical. I’m going to recommend it to our ID fellows, and keep a copy for the infection preventionists as well. There is an E-book version that is much cheaper than the hard copy, but my reading of the Adobe Digital Editions website leads me to believe that it is not viewable on either the Kindle or the iPad (which, if true, is a major limitation—Eli, do you know if you can read an Adobe Digital Edition E-book on iPad?).

The review got me thinking about how rarely I ever pull textbooks off my shelves or even access them online. I wonder if the days of the textbook, even the electronic text, are numbered. Not only are there many other sources to turn to for information, but the financial woes of most academic medicine departments no longer allow for professional activity that isn’t linked to some “revenue stream”. So everything except patient care, grant writing, funded research, or reimbursed service activity is de-emphasized. Writing a good book chapter can be a huge time-sink, and the reward for doing so is very small.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Dan,

    This is a bit off topic, but pondering the question of will any professors still be willing to write text books, an interesting article in last week's WSJ questioned the viability of super book stores like Barnes & Noble as their margins are being eroded by e-books. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704448304575196172206855634.html

    Professor Eric Von Hippel (http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/books.htm) at MIT has been making his books available for free online and has found that doing so actually increased the sales of his books in the stores.

    Fascinating human psychology/human behavior stuff.

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  2. I assume the book is a protected epub format. I suspect there are covert ways to convert the file and strip the drm, which I can't recommend, but i suspect this is another battle between apple and adobe that traps consumers in the middle. It looks like you can try the book for 30 days for $5 so perhaps if apple or amazon offer a solution, it would be worth a try.

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  3. Thanks, Eileen,

    I agree that bookstores of all kinds are under siege....we do our best to support our local independent bookstore, Prarie Lights, but it can feel like an act of historical preservation. At least at Prarie Lights, and a few other remaining independents, you can walk in confident that you'll find an extremely well-read staff that can assist you with suggestions across multiple genres...which can be well worth the additional amount you pay for the book you walk out with.

    And thanks, Eli--I figured it was probably part of the Adobe-Apple tug of war. When you see Ebb at ASM, tell him to take care of it, will you?

    Dan

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  4. You can use Copistar to convert the eBook into PDF then it will be readable on iPad

    http://www.copistar.com/

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  5. Perhaps we should get a huge sign printed with Adobe heart Apple and hold it up at the Cards-Padres game Wednesday night. That should do the trick. Imagine if your CD only played in a Ford or if your bundt pan only fit in a Kitchen Aid oven? Ridiculous, especially the part where I wrote bundt pan.

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