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Edited by M Feldman, L S Friedman, M H Sleisenger. Amsterdam: Elsevier, £65.99. ISBN 0 7216 8973 6
The mighty Sleisenger and Fordtran textbook now comes in three varieties: two volume hardback, online only access, or both. “Evolving at the speed of medicine” sounded pretty good but would the internet version be any use for me? All three of the hospitals I currently work at now have easy computer access at the clinic desk and on the wards, so it seemed an appealing prospect to carry around just a password rather than seven kilos of weighty tome.
The 7th edition online is exactly as described, and although—confusingly—there is also a CD, this contains only slide images/illustrations. My confusion with the CD meant I was unable to use the lovely interruption free time provided by the plane to DDW to write this review and was forced to watch movies instead. In this version, the text is solely available through the internet via a web browser. The quality of the website is therefore critical to the success of the “book”, and I thought it was fairly good. The site (www.sfgastro.com) was fast loading without fancy graphics (unless specifically chosen) and so would also work at home with a modem, and was simple to use with clear chapter headings displayed on the left of the screen and the text pages on the middle and right. Clicking on a chapter provided a further breakdown of contents by subheading while remaining easy to change between topics. A minor grumble—the chapter headings took up too much space on my small laptop screen (although fine on a bigger desktop)—and an option to personalise the view of the site would be an improvement.
The content will be familiar to most readers, providing a comprehensive classic textbook overview of gastroenterological/hepatological topics. This was already one of the leading textbooks on the market, and the authors have dealt a blow to the criticism that textbooks are out of date by the time of publication by providing continuous updates to the online version. Thus, for example, there are small updates on peg-interferon/ribavirin in hepatitis C and natalizumab in Crohn’s disease following important publications last year. There are also a few bonuses, including a drug database, patient information leaflets (albeit scanty and with US specific information), and useful website links. Both the website and CD image collection (provided only I suspect for speed of use) were pretty good for making rapid PowerPoint presentations—for example, to teach medical students on a topic with an hour’s notice.
Would I buy it? Yes, having quick access to an easy to use and up to date textbook in the clinic is I think very valuable. Reviewing information on the website is fast enough that it can be done in a few minutes with the clinical notes at hand before calling a patient in. Access to the 7th edition online, however, ceases as soon as the next edition is published—so the book version remains as a comfort to have on the shelf, and will at least always be there. If resources were no problem I’d have both!