Most of the pocket space in my short white coat is already spoken for, so whenever an attending recommends that I acquire another book or guide, I always check first to see if it is available as an iPhone application.
The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy is THE text for prescribing antibiotics, so once I decided to get my own copy, the question became is it worth it to shell out extra bucks for the electronic version, or should I add another book to my already overburdened pockets?
The factors I considered when deciding whether or not to buy the app included price, weight, functionality without internet access, nimbleness of the search function, intuitiveness of the interface, and free access to updates.
Cost. The electronic Sanford Guide 2011 costs $29.99 from the Apple app store (ouch!). The paper version comes new in paperback for $16.75 and spiral bound for $31.45 from Amazon.
Weight. At 220 pages long, the paperback weighs 4.8 oz and measures 0.5 x 4.2 x 6.5 inches (that’s most of a pocket). Some users report that the spiral bound holds up better, but it weighs more. Obviously, the electronic version weighs nothing if you’re already carrying your phone around anyway.
Does it work without internet access? YES. Once you download it to your phone, this app is fully functional even without internet access.
Search function and interface. Searching is easy—hit the magnifying glass in the upper left corner of the screen to type in what you are looking for (see image below), or find it by scrolling through the drop-down menus.
Updates. The book comes out only once a year, but the app is constantly updated, and the updates are free with the price of the app.
So what are the downsides?
• What my attendings seem to like best about the paper version is the fold-out charts that show bacterial susceptibilities—these are included in the electronic version but obviously do not fold out and have been edited down to fit your screen. This may take some getting used to for those accustomed to the foldouts.
• At nearly $30, the app is substantially more expensive than the paperback version.
Consider that you get enhanced portability and updates with this price. If you buy the paperback version and want to remain current, you will have to replace it next year when the 2012 version is released. Although the electronic app comes with updates, it is not yet clear how Sanford will handle dispensing next year’s full update; that is, whether the 2012 version of the book will be a free update or whether there will be a new app to purchase.
Overall, I have been very happy with this app. If you’re planning on purchasing the Sanford Guide anyway, you should seriously consider it.
The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and iTouch running iOS 4 or higher, and Android phones and tablets running v 2.2 (recommended), v. 1.6 (minimum)