There are a TON of reviews on many different e-readers out there. I read many of them before shipping of to medical school, but none were inspiring enough. This was mostly because there just weren’t reviews aimed at what I wanted to know: what is the best e-reader for medical school?
Other reviews discussed many features I figured I wouldn’t need. Even if they could be useful, it may not be worth the extra cash when I could simply use my laptop. And at that time, the use of second-hand apps (OfferUp, LetGo) was very limited: mostly sticking to traditional CraigsList. So I refrained from purchasing a new and expensive device. Had I known the answers to the my questions, or had previous experience with any e-readers, perhaps I wouldn’t have been as skittish. But I have since purchased several versions of e-readers (thanks to the massive discounts of second hand apps), and here are my thoughts.
Using the Kindle Paperwhite in Medicine
The Kindle Paperwhite is a classic. It has been beating other e-readers for years, and still remains a favorite among heavy digital readers. As a popular brand, there are also usually ample amounts for sale at great discounts from the second hand market. It is often cited as being the closest reading experience to that of a book, and I would agree.
The flow of text is pretty smooth, and it offers many additional features if WiFi is around. You can look up words you don’t know; save favorite phrases for later use; bookmark pages; and much more. However, if you are looking for the best for medical school, this version fails miserably.
The Paperwhite, like all Kindles, has a limited size per document. Some digital textbooks are well beyond this size limit, which ends up to be the least of your concerns. There is no really good way to convert PDFs (which is what most digital textbooks are formatted in) to epub or other format for the Kindle. So what you end up with is a poorly converted text with nearly incomprehensible book structure. If there is a way around this, I haven’t found it yet.
How about the Kindle Fire for Medical School?
Now, sticking with the Kindle family, the Fire comes in many shapes and forms. I haven’t tried them all out, so this review is a bit lacking. The Fire 8 and Fire 10 have remarkably improved screen quality. They are much more like a regular tablet than an e-reader, and allow you to play games, browse the web, or do many of the other tasks that will distract you from your reading. This could be a detriment to study time if you are one that is easily distracted. But if you are looking for an e-reader for medical school, these should be considered.
Sending a PDF to this Kindle is still a pain sometimes. Unlike using iBook or a similar app, I would recommend the Send to Kindle computer extension. However, many PDFs I have sent end up in a Documents folder on the Kindle instead of the Books folder, which is annoying. The price of the Fire is significantly less than most tablet readers, so if you want a little more functionality than some other e-readers for medical school use this is not a bad choice.
Is the iPad Good for Medical School?
Of course, no review would be complete without the iPad. There are many different sizes of this classic tablet as well, so pick one that will be convenient to bring to class (or fit in your lab coat). Again, tablets pose the issue of being distractions as much as helpers. However, with the iPads note-taking software, it becomes very competitive for other reasons than simply being an e-reader. It seems the vast majority of students now have some experience with this device (or have an iPhone), so no need to go into great detail.
It is also MUCH easier to run your PDF textbooks off of this device than the others. Get a size that fits your white coat pocket and there is no turning back!
The Votes Are In
As far as the best e-reader for medical school, it ultimately comes to what your personal needs are. If budget is a concern, it is much more affordable to go into the Kindle family than iPads. Depending on where you live, there may be a significant second-hand market as well, which can make any option more affordable for a student on a tight budget. Just make sure to thoroughly assess any electronics before purchasing from a second-hand market and read the profile reviews whenever possible.
The Paperwhite is not the best option for school texts, but it is great for leisure reading. It is lightweight, has a great battery life, and can fit many more books on it than one would expect. You may find that you do not have much time for leisure reading during medical school but make time if you can!. The Fire is definitely a decent runner-up for medical school textbooks. I haven’t yet fully explored all of it’s functions so it may be a better match than I currently believe. However, the limitations on file size make this a no-go in my book. If you can find a way around this, it would make a much better e-reader for medical school.
The iPad currently wins, hands down. It is powerful, clear, and holds many extra useful functions. Mine fits right in my lab coat, which is great for when you have a free second in the hospital. With cell service, it may make a useful hotspot for other devices as well. Using WiFi or cell service to brows the web for quick reference is a great help. It also doesn’t come with the annoying ads that the basic Kindle versions have.
I hope this clears up a few of the pros and cons to each of these e-readers for medical school purposes. If any of this information becomes outdated, or if you find away around some of the pitfalls I have mentioned, please feel free to drop a line so this may be updated.