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The Devil's Advocate: "The Textbook is Dead"

In the deepest circle of #MedEd hell, lives the devil’s advocate. Thinking the unthinkable. Voicing your deepest and darkest thoughts about the world of medical education. In a first of a series of entries about challenging the status quo, why not take a trip with us down to meet him?

The textbook is dead. It says so on our home page, so you know it must be true.

There is an old saying: ‘Textbooks are out of date the moment they are printed’, and it is entirely true. Medicine is an ever-changing field, with guidelines, treatments and even our basic understanding of the human body being updated more regularly and more frustratingly than iOS. Textbooks just cannot keep up with this pace, particularly when you account for the fact that it is many months, even years, between chapters being written and them actually making it onto the page in front of you. And THAT’S assuming you actually have forked out for the most recent edition. Simply put, textbooks could never hope to keep up with the developments in medicine – there’s a reason people talk so much about the fact that a medical career requires lifelong learning.

They’re overpriced –a new copy of Grey’s Anatomy costing well over £40. For the price of your entire night out (in a northern university, or one whole pint if you live in London) you can get a couple of kilos of dead tree. As if university isn’t expensive enough these days. And many universitys' ‘essential’ reading lists may contain over a dozen obsolete tomes, which contain only a couple of relevant chapters at best. And once you’ve forked over your hard earned student loan, the majority will just sit in their cellophane wrapping, until a visit from your parents will guilt trip you into opening them, so at least you can pretend that you’ve been doing some work.

Even if you manage to miraculously get an up to date textbook on the cheap, it may not actually be of much use to you. Textbooks only really appeal to ‘visual’ learning, which isn’t much help to those of us who are more ‘auditory’ or ‘kinaesthetic’ learners. To make matters worse, textbooks like to pretend they are the only resource you will need to learn that topic, and textbooks are the only reliable source available (completely ignoring the fact they could well be out of date). It’s a completely out dated attitude, and in no way reflects the diversity of learners that make up the medical population.

They contain nothing you can’t get for free now days. With so many fantastic on line resources available for free [ED: *cough* Medisense *cough*] that are constantly uploaded and can deliver stale topics in an innovative manner, textbooks are becoming redundant at a remarkable rate. In fact, online copies of these textbooks are available for free in more unsavoury sections of the internet, although I couldn’t possibly recommend searching for these. At least not without some pretty powerful anti virus software that is.

I must admit however, that they do have their uses: killing particularly large spiders, weighing down poorly constructed and unstable Swedish shelving units or making its 100% obvious to anyone you might whilst to impress that you are in a fact a medical student (without having to be too obnoxious).

On an unrelated note, FOR SALE: Wide range of second hand textbooks, many still in cellophame wrappers. Like new. £39.99 (with FREE crushed spider).


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