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Practice of Therapeutic Endoscopy, 2nd edn. Edited by G N J Tytgat, M Classen, J D Waye, et al (Pp 328; illustrated; £99.95). Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co, 2000. ISBN 0702025615.
We are in the throes of a revolution in the printing world, the ramifications of which cannot be accurately foreseen but are certainly as likely to have as dramatic effect on global culture as did Johann Gutenberg's invention of printing in the 15th century. Maybe we should all be pleased that we are living right in the middle of the revolution in communications technology. It is an endless source of fascination to listen to those who just a few years ago could not distinguish a RAM from a ROM, now feeling free to wax lyrical to all within earshot about the latest bit of “state of the art” technology that they own. How good it is to be at the cutting edge of information technology.
Yet, maybe not everyone is head over heels in love with IT. While the medical and particularly the academic community are keen to grasp all the opportunities, there must be many publishers who are rather fearful about what the future might bring. For them, like for almost all of us, change brings uncertainty. But it is not good to question technological progress in the UK just now. We have a modernising government and its leader is fond of saying that he is proud of his country's past, but he does not want to live in it!
So what will modernisation bring to the publishing world. A whole generation is now being brought up to look upon the personal computer as the main means of communication. Conventional correspondence is now sneeringly dismissed as “snail mail”. Maybe daily newspapers will hang in there a bit longer but what is the future of medical journals?
All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I read this book, the first edition of which was published six years ago. The sheer range of what can now be done interventionally through an endoscope is quite breathtaking. There is a series of essays on therapeutic endoscopy nearly all of which are of very high quality indeed. The publisher, WB Saunders, has served the editors very well. I think this book has been most beautifully produced—the illustrations are generally very fine and the reproduction of colour photographs is quite superb. This is a book that should be read by every trainee.
Yet there is a problem. It is something of a truism that medical textbooks are out of date before they are published. Of course that is always true, even in an area such as this where the pace of technological progress out speeds the publishing schedule. However, the problem here is rather deeper. In many ways, this book is a manual. It is full of helpful tips on “how to do it” and it is very good on pitfalls and how to avoid them. The problem is that the medium of a textbook just cannot be the way of the future for this sort of book. As most of the neologisms in the IT language, multimedia is a fairly ghastly word, nevertheless one just feels there ought to be a CD or DVD to go with the book.
Whether anybody will be publishing books like this in five years time is anyone's guess—but I wouldn't bet on it. Doubtless trees will be happier but in any case the present publishers state proudly in a preface that their policy is “to use paper manufactured from sustainable forests”. Jolly good of them too!
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