If you were to take a look at my bookcases, you would classify me as a book hoarder. Yes, it’s true I have been collecting book. Some have been with me since college. Books have so much information, and I have always felt a bit paranoid about throwing them away and then not having them for a critical piece of information that I need.

My collection includes books on biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, and others. To be honest, I really have not used them as much as I have used my online sources, and that’s not because I have memorized everything in these books. We are told during college and medical school that we must memorize everything. With the explosion of information, however, it is more practical to know the specific question for which you need the answer for and have reliable sources. The goal is to memorize as much as possible, but also know how to find information in the most efficient manner.

Nowadays, books are already in the internet; MDconsult and AccessMedicine are two of my main sources. They contain all the textbooks I would ever need to answer my questions. There is also UpToDate which contains tons of current articles as well. I have used these sources for years, but getting rid of my books never really crossed my mind. I’ve become quite comfortable with reading texts online, downloading pdf files, and directly taking notes on the actual files. I also use Evernote to curate interesting articles.

Recently, Dr. Mike Cadogan (@sandnsurf), from Life in the Fast Lane, participated in a debate stating that physical textbooks are essentially dead. I watched this video and stared back at my bookcases. I realized that I should not fear not having the textbooks. More than enough textbooks are online. The internet allows me to go almost anywhere and still have access to these digital texts.

Currently, medical school, residency, and CME curricula are also moving online. This includes online lectures, podcasts, and videos. Respected physicians are even demonstrating procedures online. Learning is just not the same as it used to be. It’s no longer about sitting in a lecture hall or reading a heavy textbook for hours. Now we can easily learn and collaborate with people worldwide in real-time and asynchronously through such social media platforms as Twitter or Google+.

This post is an ode to the physical being of my textbooks. They have now passed on to a better space (cyberspace), and I have learned to live without them. They taught me a lot, we were together through the good and bad. They used to accompany me to the anatomy lab, spend long sleepless nights together, and sometimes I would even wake up with my forehead against them.

So, I agree with Mike 100%. Textbooks ARE dead.

Farewell my friends, spread your hard and softcovers in book-heaven.

Javier Benitez, MD

Javier Benitez, MD

ALiEM Featured Contributor
Javier Benitez, MD


Medical doctor, tweets not medical advice or endorsements. Interested in #MedEd & technology. Always learning. I'm no expert. No financial conflict of interest.
Javier Benitez, MD