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RE: Eliminating references in medical books

I agree with Mark that this is disturbing, although my slant on 
it is slightly different from his. After some time spent browsing 
the Expert Consult site, I come away with the conclusion that the 
publisher views the physical book as an "extra" -- they are 
primarily interested in selling access to the electronic version, 
which, in addition to providing the references, provides access 
to a number of additional "enhanced features."  You get fully 
searchable text and, depending on the title, may have an image 
library, videos, self-assessment questions, etc.  You can build 
your own "online library of all your favourite medical titles".

Seen from this angle, the physical book is just a "transitional 
object", intended to give the purchaser of the online version 
something that they are a little more comfortable with, until 
they can gradually be weaned away from needing a hard copy 
artifact at all.  I think I can understand some of the marketing 
strategy.  And they've got a long list of titles due to come out 
over the course of the next year.

Viewed in this way, perhaps it doesn't violate Mark's basic 
principle of scientific communication any more than a news story 
does.  The latest NYT story about a hot NEJM article doesn't 
supply the references either -- you have to go to the original 
publication in order to do that.  In the case of the Expert 
Consult titles, the "original publication" is the electronic 
version, not the hard copy book.  The hard copy isn't "crippled" 
-- it's just a shadow.  Ephemera.

Unfortunately, unlike the circumstance in my tenuous analogy, 
nobody but the individual purchaser can go to the original 
publication.  There's no library version, no site licensed 
version, no way for the casual reader who might find value in the 
content to get the full publication.  It can't be shared, can't 
be borrowed, can't really become part of the full scholarly 

But from a marketing standpoint, perhaps those things are 
irrelevant -- this is option #3 from Rick Anderson's article 
referenced earlier in the week.  Find a way to market directly to 
students and faculty.


T. Scott Plutchak
Director, Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Mark Funk
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:11 PM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: Eliminating references in medical books

A colleague recently pointed out on the medlib-l listserv that a 
recent professional medical book does not print the references 
for any chapter. The book is "Surgical pathology of the GI tract, 
liver, biliary tract, and pancreas," by Robert D. Odze. Saunders, 

While the text of each chapter refers to dozens, if not hundreds 
of numbered references, at the end of each chapter is a small box 
that says: "References, with PubMed access, are available in the 
online edition through Expert Consult."

One accesses Expert Consult by using a one-time activation code 
on the inside front cover. However, only one person can use this 
code. A library is not permitted to register and give out the 
login information to Expert Consult. This is not only 
frustrating, but I feel it violates a basic principle of 
scientific communication. Why should one of the most fundamental 
aspects of scientific publishing -- citing previous authority -- 
be hidden behind a locked gate?

I can understand why a publisher would want to restrict access to 
the full text of a book to only the licensed purchaser. But why 
not make the references publicly available? If including them in 
the printed book would escalate costs and size (the book lists at 
$339, and has almost 1400 pages), put them on a public web page. 
Allow readers other than the first purchaser to see the evidence.

I find this a disturbing situation, since it means that the 
library has purchased a crippled copy of the book, and we are 
unable to assist our users.

While the slogan that Elsevier uses for Expert Consult is "Bring 
your book to life," the copy a library purchases is permanently 

Mark Funk
Acting Director and
Associate Director, Resources & Education
Weill Cornell Medical Library
New York, NY 10065-4805