“Should I get a Kindle or wait for the iPad?” my mother-in-law asked me a couple of months ago. I had heard of the Kindle but had never seen one. Personally, I couldn’t imagine reading an entire book on a handheld screen. I’m a handheld paper kind of gal.
She was adamant that e-books were the way of the future. I was sceptical, but then saw the story that e-books outsold print books on Amazon.com for the first time, during the 2009 Christmas shopping season. So, my mother-in-law was on to something.
The notice from the BMJ of their new publishing strategy for clinical research articles – 1-page summaries in the print version, and the full article with interactive features online only – made me realise that e-reading is here to stay, and things will never be the same in medical publications.
For the medical journal reader, especially, this is a really exciting shift. But, as anyone who has ever published a research article knows, there’s nothing like receiving your box of glossy reprints. The feeling of holding a publication with your work in your hands can never be replaced, both for the pride-in-work value and (I still say) ease of reading.
For in-depth articles, I’ve thought about why I prefer reading them on paper rather than online. I think there must be a subconscious scanning of the entire document during reading, an attempt by the brain to take in the article’s big picture while digesting it paragraph by paragraph.
One could argue that the need to print in-depth articles contradicts the rationale for removing them from the print publication. But, not every journal article is relevant to every reader, so in the end, trees will be saved.
I support the BMJ’s new format. We now get the best of both worlds – key summaries in hand, and full access to data and other features online, with the option of printing the full research article. It is medical publishing, and so much more.