Medical publisher Thieme recently debuted their own free iBooks-like app for the iPad. This is an interesting way for medical publishers to start their own eco-systems, allowing institutional and personal subscriptions that don’t rely on a single platform. Already accessible through their web portal, in the future they could expand to Android tablets or whatever else comes along. It doesn’t anchor users to Apple, but it does keep them with Thieme, and prevents the end user from selling a used copy. Like with most electronic media, users want to access their purchases with whatever device they happen to have on hand, and since most physicians are using an iPad for a tablet, Thieme seems to be responding appropriately.
The app itself is pretty basic, serving as both a bookshelf and a portal to their eBook store, but we don’t know that you would want it to do much more. It downloads purchased books through the storefront in the app, or when you sign in with your Thieme username you get access to all of the eBook versions of Thieme books you already own on other devices. The files are saved on the iPad, so you don’t need internet access once the book is downloaded. We looked at three titles that Thieme provided free for review:
Atlas of Anatomy
Peripheral Regional Anesthesia
Surgical Treatment of Orthopaedic Trauma
Within each book you can make bookmarks and notes, search for keywords, and alter the screen contrast. However, when a book comes with “bonus content” such as videos or DVDs there is no way to get to them within the app. The publishers tell us that they hope to add this functionality in the future. Also, there is no way to share notes or bookmarks with others who own the same book or with yourself on another device. Annoyingly, if you leave a book to go to another part of the app, when you return to the book the program does not save your place, dumping you back to the first page. This is made even more frustrating by the slowness of the app in rendering each page. We were using the latest generation iPad and it took about 3 seconds to render each page (slightly faster in landscape mode, but the text is smaller), making casual scrolling through a book very tedious. So unless you remember the exact page number you were on before exiting or made a bookmark, getting back to where you were could involve a lot of idle time.
A final minor complaint is that the title of the app itself (Thieme Bookshelf) is long enough that it has to be truncated by the iOS homescreen, so it displays as “Thieme…kshelf” when downloaded.
This sounds like a lot of complaining, but overall we like what Thieme is attempting to do. And it is definitely more convenient to carry around an iPad than three heavy books. If you already have an eBook license from Thieme for multiple books, this free app is worth downloading to your iPad, but the limitations listed above mean that if you only have a small pocket guide, it is more convenient to just carry the physical version. Especially if it is something you want to be able to access quickly and flip through to find relevant info.
iTunes Link:Thieme Bookshelf…