Are Physical Books Dead? - NYSORA | NYSORA

Are Physical Books Dead?

April 18, 2023

Summary: No! Definitely not dead, but in need of a revitalizing injection. In particular, books have been always plagued by the physical limitations of the medium – where the use of illustrations, algorithms, and images was limited due to the cost of production and the physical size of the book. More importantly, the lack of an option to feature moving images, videos, and animations downgraded the value of the book as a learning medium. 

Retention and effective application of information are vital for anyone practicing anesthesiology, as it is a highly-practical science. A routine case can change in an instant, and the anesthetist has to be prepared for any amount of plot twists.

So, for the books in anesthesiology, the issue is not whether physical books are dead but whether the traditional printed book format best serves all the requirements of the practicing anesthesiologist, and, if not, how can we take all the best features of the physical book and improve them to optimize learning outcomes. 

Here I look at 5 areas where books serve us and how we can make the format even better to turbo-charge effective learning:

  1. Authority
  2. Categorization
  3. Currency
  4. Desirability and Resistance
  5. Learning styles


  1. Authority

 In the past, the very act of publishing a book turned the “author” into an “authority”. In the early days of physical books, the printed word carried such power and influence that printing presses had to be licensed!

Now, with the proliferation of publishers and the democratization of printing, anyone can publish. In the past, large, established publishers had a monopoly on printing books. Books of yesteryear had to be printed in large quantities to justify the cost of a print run, then stored in warehouses. Today, few books are printed in large volumes, and more often, are printed on demand, by Amazon among others, only when the books are sold. That is an advance in many respects, but with so many books on the market, how does the reader know which books to trust and which will best serve their learning journey? 

Importantly, book authorship no longer guarantees a free pass to authority! It’s not enough to publish, sit back, and wait for your readers to find you. Now the onus is on the author to establish their credentials by other means. Fortunately, we now have highly-visible platforms, such as YouTube, where the author can go to meet their audience where they are. The ability to build a following matters – the number of subscribers now acts as the “professional currency”; a more accurate indicator of the author’s authority and credibility than a book review in a journal of yesteryear. 


  1. Categorization and Reference

Where journal articles introduce bits and pieces of information and leave it up to the reader to interpret how to apply that knowledge, one of the great strengths of the book is the ability to systemize large chunks of content and assist with practical management – to help the reader make sense of it all. We have titles, we have chapters and sub-headings and footnotes, indices, and appendices: this makes it easier to find particular subjects and references when we need them. This is more important now than ever, as the sheer volume and pace of emerging data are mind-boggling! 

Here’s what Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, said in 2003

“From the dawn of civilization to 2003, five exabytes of data were created. 

The same amount (of data) was created in the last two days.

(And that was 20 years ago!!)

We need an effective way to interpret and curate that information.

  1. Currency

How do we do that with physical books? Reprints, new versions, the print system struggles to cope with it and we need more efficient methods to be able to update and replace outmoded information – in real-time! As a book author, I always hated my books. Typically, it takes 1-2 years to gather the content and publish a book. But by the time the book is published, new knowledge becomes available, making it painful for a book author to read, as the information is often obsolete by the time the book is even published. 

The ability to keep content up-to-date plays a huge part in the trust factor. How can the reader be sure that the content of a book represents the most recent knowledge and recommendations? 

Well, the short answer is “they can’t – unless you, as the content creator, implement some system to assure the reader that their content is always updated in real-time” 

To do that with a physical book would involve printing new versions almost daily.

 This is the main area where 2D physical books fall short in serving the needs of practitioners and students. 

As a result, many practitioners and students turn to the Internet to find the most recent information, but, again, who to trust? What happens when you find two equally convincing, but conflicting pieces of advice? Which do you choose? Who will curate that information for you?

This brings us back to the subject of authority; a trusted source who can be relied upon to assess knowledge as it becomes available and ensure that their electronically published sources are always maintained and refreshed in real-time.  

This is exactly why NYSORA has built its Learning System and Pocket EDU. These platforms power the 3D book, allowing the content to be regularly updated as new information becomes available. Moreover, the Pocket Edu platform supports the upload of as many images, videos, and animations as required to facilitate learning, which leads to point #4. 

  1. Desirability and Resistance

An aspect of grown-up books seldom addressed is “fun”. Why? After all, if the student or practitioner has no desire to read the book and finds it dull or boring, then resistance to re-reading the content will be strong. If you are a busy practitioner who has just finished a grueling shift, it can be difficult to find the self-discipline to lock yourself away with a pile of textbooks. 

2D books deliver one-way information, giving you little control over the conversation! Humans learn naturally by asking questions. They learn best when they are happy, stress-free, and feel in control. This is why “forcing yourself” to learn is not very effective. It can be done, but what if there were a way to take in information that was enticing, engaging, interactive, and allowed you to take control of the learning journey? 

Experiential learning is how children acquire knowledge so quickly and effortlessly. They ask questions when they need the information, and that information is retained far more effectively than when they simply receive knowledge out of context. Why do we make books fun for children but assume that, at some point, as adults, we must force ourselves to plow through volumes of dense, unbroken text? 

Why indeed? Because our teachers had to do it?! We should suffer, too, even when we have all these amazing tools and platforms at our disposal. 

Can we academics afford to become book snobs?

Now we have the chance to make learning more accessible and much more effective!  Why don’t we grasp it with both hands?!

  1. Learning Styles

We are often told about the different learning styles; how some of us prefer to take in information visually, while others are more auditory or prefer to learn by experience. The reality is that we all benefit from all channels to some extent, and variety, as they say, is the spice of life, allowing us to take control of our learning journey by receiving the same content in different ways – not just repeating, but refreshing our uptake of information. 

Our philosophy at NYSORA is “Why not have it all?” and that’s how we developed our NYSORA materials to allow you to derive maximum benefit from reading, listening, and looking over the shoulder of a mentor. 

(We take all the best features of the 2D book and uplevel it to a 3D Integrated Cognitive Experience (ICE) pack,)

In short, the physical book is not dead and, in fact, over a million new titles are published on Amazon every year! For many of us, the physical book is a source of joy and discovery. However, when it comes to learning outcomes, there are several ways we can enhance the format of the book to better serve our audiences. 

COMPENDIUM Of Regional Anesthesia: NYSORA’s Response to the Obsolescence Conundrum 

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