Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The beauty of a continuously updated electronic book

I guess this blog post could be called "The Portable Chemist's Consultant Part 2" (see part 1 here). The reason for the existence of this blog post is three-fold: 1) to write about the advantages of an electronic book that is continuously updated; 2) to show you how to update this book once you have it on your iPad; and 3) have a history of updates on this page so that you can check back to see when the next update comes out. 

1) So why is it an electronic book to begin with? As chemists, we are scholars; scholars read books; chemists read books. With that undeniable logic, we would only need a printed book. But chemistry is an evolving science, and to reflect that, we need an evolving book. New molecules are being made every minute around the globe. New methods are being invented. Previously established mechanisms are being disproved. Unless you write a book about history in chemistry, about general strategies in synthesis or about classic total syntheses, any book claiming to contain recent advances in something is affected by the concept of time. With a printed book, as perfect as it might have been at the moment it was written, even by the time of publication, "recent" findings are no longer recent. For some books, a second edition will be published to combat the effect of time—after which the stopwatch of data aging resets itself but then immediately starts up again. Repeat for a third edition, and a fourth. With traditional publishers, every edition means a new purchase, which is an additional burden on the reader. 

And then there's the content. Every printed book has a defined scope, and the authors (or worse, the publishing company) decide what is discussed and what is omitted. The reader is never consulted. But a book is for readers; without readers, there is no book (or there shouldn't be). 

So our goal is to make a book that always has the most recent data from the literature, a book that will still be useful in 50 years from now, a book that is timeless. We want to create a book that contains information that every organic chemist will find useful, from undergrads to professors and seasoned industrial chemists. We want to write a book that serves as an instructional text, a good reference source, and a reliable set of handy data to combat day-to-day chemistry problems. We want a living book. While we have yet to achieve these goals, and will always have to keep working toward achieving these goals, we think that this is the only way to respond to the needs of our chemistry audience in this fast-paced world. With this electronic book platform, we believe that all the above is possible. 

2) How to update this book. It's an easy process and it's better to show the sequence through images, so here it is: 

i) Go to your iBooks library shelf. There should be a circled "1" next to the "Store" button at the top left corner of your screen. Tap on that button.

ii) In your iBookstore, there should be a circled "1" next to the "Purchased" button at the bottom of your screen. Tap on that button. 

iii) Next to the book, it should say "UPDATE." Tap on that button

iv) "UPDATE" then becomes "DOWNLOADING."

v) Wait for the update to download and there you have it! 

3) A history of updates for this book. Quantitatively speaking, with every month of updates, we aim to increase the content by roughly 10% of the original size of the book (say, 40–50 pages per month)—at least for the foreseeable future. Please check back every month or so to read this post again for a description of new updates!  (Although checking your iBooks shelf would be easier...)

Mar 11, 2013: Version 1.0 of the book (439 pages) is launched in the USA. 

Apr 1, 2013: Version 2.0 of the book (490 pages) is launched. Updates include cover pages for each section, video recordings of Phil's Heterocyclic Chemistry course embedded throughout the text where appropriate, more speed consulting questions and a general section on (hetero)aromatic amination. 

Apr 8, 2013: Version 2.1 of the book (494 pages) is launched in all countries allowed by the iBookstore (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela. If your country is not here, sorry but the blame is on Apple). Updates include a general contents page and a revamped look for the table of contents pages. 

May 6, 2013: Version 2.2 of the book (579 pages) is launched. Updates include reformatted references, a ‘report card’ on azaindole synthesis, more speed consulting questions, a detailed section on (hetero)aromatic amination, a new consulting section on (hetero)aromatic cyanation, as well as electrostatic potential maps in the Appendix (with thanks to Patrick Lam!).

Jul 30, 2013: Version 2.3 of the book (681 pages) is launched. Updates are primarily in the consulting section, which now include amide bond formation, (hetero)aromatic hydroxymethylation, (hetero)aromatic carbonylation, and (hetero)aromatic difluoromethylation. More speed consulting questions have been added as well, and a series of fluorination questions have been answered. 

Nov 18, 2013: Version 2.4 of the book (697 pages) is launched. Several errors were fixed. Updates are primarily in the amide bond formation section.

To be launched next: Imidazole chapter.


  1. Just disappointed it's Apple only. Any chance the book will be available to those on other platforms?

    1. We chose the Apple platform simply based on a personal preference; we will prioritize perfecting the iPad version but our ultimate goal is to develop other electronic versions and a hard-copy book (although the hard-copy book will lose its interactive features).

  2. Android versoin please, I would buy it!

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