Note that all of Deadman’s publishing has been done through his company that also curates and releases the popular Journal of Chinese Medicine. They sell lots of Chinese medicine related products through their UK based site. Also note that I did a brief interview with Peter that has garnered a lot of, uh, interest over the years.
That being said, the paper Manual of Acupuncture is a massive tome, weighing in at 6 pounds. I don’t need to be carrying around all that paper when I’m off to work up patient cases or study. That’s why I’m happy to report you have a few options if you’re looking for a digital option for your fix.
There are, in fact, three separate digital products available. All are essentially the paper book rendered into their various formats. I own all three, and have used them extensively enough to have a sense for the pros and cons of each. I’ll share my take here with you.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did approach the company and was given free access to the web version in order to do this review. I bought the iOS, DVD-ROM and paper versions of the text myself, long before I offered to do this review. I’ve received no other compensation of any kind, and I wasn’t asked to give any particular information or perspective in my review.
Let’s start with the first digital product created by Deadman – the DVD-ROM.
Sold from 2008 and until recently, this is essentially an exact replica of the book in digital form. All the pages of the text, including images, are there.
There are indexes included: by indication, by channel, by name and by combination. Each leads you to a page of links, when clicked, they take you to the relevant page. There is also a “next point” and “last point” feature on each page that allows you to move through a channel bit by bit.
The product is apparently discontinued, but you can find copies at online bookstores that sell used books from time to time.
- The primary pro of any digital version is its portability. While you do need to have a computer with a CD/DVD reader equipped, once you have that, you have the text with you wherever you go. This is a great boon for anybody, but especially students who haul around huge amounts of stuff. I only wish all CM text publishers would get into this game.
- The included indexes are a quick and easy way to access lots of information, without the tiresome practice of actually turning pages. As I said above, there are several indexes that allow you to move through the massive amount of information rather quickly.
- All the information in the original text is there – including some of the longer explanations and the glossary. As far as I can tell, every single word of the original version is replicated in the digital version. Thus, you could theoretically buy only this version and NOT the paper text.
- No true search feature. This is a pain when you just KNOW there’s a point in the text that references some particular symptom or classical text, but that symptom or text is not listed in one of the indexes. This has happened to me multiple times.
- Computer required. With the way things are moving these days, being confined to a single device can be a tough sell. My Macbook Air doesn’t even HAVE a CD/DVD reader – I have to use an external device!
- Price. The DVD-ROM is seemingly no longer being produced. Even when it was actively being produced and sold, if you’ve already bought the book, buying yet another 100+ version, even with decent features, is difficult to swallow. The cheapest used version on Amazon is $175 as of this writing.
Overall, a fine effort, but it definitely had some shortcomings. While I used my DVD version of the text during the all-important second year of my program, after that I found the reward-cost ratio to be too far skewed in the direction of the latter. I didn’t want to carry around my computer, and ended up just using websites for on-the-go acupuncture reference.
iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) version
This “universal”1 app was released in October 2011, and has received 8 updates during the intervening 2.5 years. There is one update I’ve been waiting on for a long time – but I will discuss that near the end of this article.
You can buy it by following this link -. If you use this link, Chinese Medicine Central will get a small portion of your purchase. You’ll help out the site without costing yourself any additional money!
UPDATE 2014-10-31 : The OS app now goes into landscape mode!
UPDATE 2017-08-31 : There have been many improvements since this time, you can see the full version history on the iTunes sales page for the app.
- Portability. While this was a strong point of the DVD-ROM, in the iOS version we have the true flourishing of this possibility. Particularly given that it is available on the iPhone, you always have the world’s premier acupuncture reference at your fingertips. These are the times when technology really feels magical to me.
- Not just a straight port of the book – put together intelligently for the format. Where the DVD-ROM contained basically a carbon copy of the text, the iOS version takes the same information, but arranges it slightly differently. This feels right.
- Feature: Location video. One of the best new features of the iOS app is the addition of point location videos for each of the points. These are done on a human model, and basically consist of the location + caution text from the book read aloud. There’s lots of useful, occasionally funny, handwaving by the demonstrator. They are actually exceptionally helpful, and I think would be even more so for new students of the medicine.
- Feature: Tests. The DVD-ROM did have a “self testing” feature, but it was quite limited in scope, and designed poorly. I’m not sure anybody used it. The iOS app elevates the possibilities quite well. You can do tests based on each channel as well as all the major point categories. Unfortunately, you’re just asked if you can remember the information about a point, and you are meant to either think or write the information down on your own, and then check your work. It would be more useful if you actually entered the information into the app, which then checked it.The category based tests also suffer from the fact that they don’t ask you to remember which points are, for instance, xi-cleft points. Instead, it just gives you the same type of test as a channel test, but based on those 12 points. Despite these shortcomings, I can see this feature being more useful than it was in the DVD-ROM version.
- Feature: Favorites and notes. Two brand new features in the iOS app are favorites and notes. These are user customized information fields. The former allows you to tag a point as a favorite. You can then view a special list of your favorite points, making the most important information readily accessible. You can also make different groups of favorites. So, for instance, you could have a list of favorite points on the back, and favorite points on the front. Or favorite points for condition x, y or z.The notes feature is great. You enter a note on an individual point, and it then becomes an entry in that point’s page. You could make your own location notes, notes about things you’ve learned about needling the point, particular conditions that you’ve found it to be effective for, or maybe lineage-based information from your teacher. The app then becomes a great little database for all the information you’ve learned about acupuncture.You can also view all of your notes on a single page, organized by point. I’m not sure of the utility of this, but it is a handy way to delete batches of notes.
- Search is now available! The iOS app introduces basic search capacity – a quick and easy way to find information you need from all over the text. For me, the primary value of digital information is how easy it is to access. My memory functions in funny ways, and I’ll often remember that I read something in Deadman related to a point, but will only remember a few words of what I read. Theoretically, search would allow me to find the relevant point in these cases.
- Price – for only $35.99, and then available on all of your devices, this is a much cheaper option than the book. I’ve bought both versions of the Manual in paper, and I still didn’t hesitate to drop another chunk of change on the iOS version.
- No Android version. They have not yet released an Android version of the app, which is no problem for me, but is for many people. UPDATE : The Android version was released and is available here.
- Some of the design choices could have been made differently. Fonts, the arrangement of particular elements of pages, and the whole arrangement of the settings/profile page need to be rethought. These don’t impact the actual usage of the app, but are irritating enough for me to think about them every time I open the app.
- No landscape mode (particularly egregious on the iPad). If you turn the iPad into landscape mode, the app persistently remains in the portrait position. I have asked about this and been informed that they’re not sure when a fix for this will be propagated out, and that the issues involved are complex. This confuses me a bit, given the very WIDE adoption of apps that flip readily between the two views.I use my iPad primarily in landscape mode, since I have it attached to a keyboard that I use when typing up my patient notes and doing various types of writing. Every time I want to switch over to the Manual of Acupuncture iPad app, I have to turn the whole assembly on its side. Very awkward, very inconvenient. UPDATE 2014-03-05 : I have been informed by Peter Deadman himself that a new iOS version is on the way complete with better navigation and LANDSCAPE ORIENTATION (rotation).
- A few persistent bugs remain. For example, when I add a point to a favorite category, more often than not I am unable to return to a useful screen, and end up having to cancel out of the whole app and returning. This has limited the utility of the favorites feature.
- Search isn’t perfect. Two major gripes. First, there doesn’t seem to be a “universal search” of the whole text. If there is, it’s not readily accessible. Search happens within particular sections of the indications index, or within channels/points. Also annoyingly , search works best when you use the language of the book.With no space limitations, I would have thought that they could have expanded the language a little bit to allow for more accurate search. For example, if I search for “shoulder pain” while looking in the S section of the indications index, it shows me nothing, even though I can clearly see “Shoulder, pain of the” in the listing. There are many other examples like this. The language should be translated as broadly as possible so that the conditions/etc that people naturally look for are readily found. This would DRAMATICALLY increase the utility of the app.
New web app
Released relatively recently, the new web app seems to be getting most of the development love at this point. I can’t say I blame them, as device-specific apps may have had their day already.
You can sign up for a 7 day free trial, and when that is completed, you will be asked to sign up for one of two options. You can pay $5/month indefinitely for full access to the app. Alternatively, you can pay $130 for lifetime access. The newest version (orange cover) of the Manual in paper is selling for $140 right now (2017-08-31). So, the lifetime version is comparable to the paper version in cost.
There are cheaper upgrade options for owners of the DVD-ROM – only $16 for people who have their serial number from the DVD-ROM version will get them lifetime access. Pretty sweet!
Update 2014-03-05: I have been informed that the upgrade option is a little more complicated than I thought. Here’s information straight from the source:
Just to clarify, the cheap upgrade is available only to owners of the more recent multimedia DVD-ROM , not the original text-based DVD-ROM. I know it’s a little confusing! The multimedia DVD-ROM (which subsequently became available as a download as well as a disc) was much more like the current Online edition, with interactive tests and videos.
I did not differentiate between the two different versions of the DVD-ROM, because I wasn’t aware of the difference! So, for those of you who were confused, I apologize! 🙂
Like the rest of the digital options, all the information is there. You won’t miss out on some critical information by buying one version of the text over another. The difference is in the features.
- New Feature : Videos of the flow of the channel on the main channel page (not present in iOS version). The videos of the locations of the points remain as well.
- Improved feature: Notes have been improved somewhat – the font is less painful. However, the “favorite” feature seems to be gone, replaced by something called “flagging.” The result is the same – you get a list of those points you’ve indicated are of special notice. But you can no longer arrange these. I don’t know if there is a plan to reinstate favorites in the web app or not.
- Improved feature: Testing is DRAMATICALLY improved in the web app. The tests are helpful – including location testing where you place a dot on the appropriate area and it grades you according to how far away from the real location you were! There are even custom tests where you can create groups of points you want to test yourself on. Ultimately, you can do that on the iPad app using “Favorites” as well, but this is more obvious and easier to use.There’s even an area on the tests page that shows how well you’ve done on tests, where you’re scoring most highly and so on. There’s also a test based on points by Chinese name, which is great!
- New feature: Rotating acupuncture tips on the main screen. If you stay on the main screen that is shown when you login, there is a box at the bottom of the page that just displays a random tip about a particular point. You can advance them by pressing a small arrow, if you’re interested. You can also be taken to the point page for more information.
- New feature : Ultimate platform compatibility. With a web app, so long as you can open one of the common web browsers, you can access the information. So, Android users, rejoice! I have not tested the app on any Android devices, but I assume they render correctly. I’ve used the web app on my iPad and iPhone and found both to work just fine.
- Landscape mode is now possible! Because it’s a web app, it adapts fine to different orientations of the device.
- Navigation can still be awkward. For instance, if you go through from the Lung primary channel main page to the video, you end up being ushered onto a page composed of all the links to all the various videos. You then have to figure out how to get back to where you were. A minor quibble, perhaps, but enough to disrupt my enjoyment. In general, I think they need to give some further consideration to arrangement of the various menus in space. It can be quite confusing.
- Monthly cost. Obviously, if you go the monthly route, you will spend more than the book costs in a couple of years of use. But, honestly, that’s not bad. I think a higher price would be justified.
- Only available when you’re connected to the Internet. This is the main drawback of any web app. If you’ve got poor or no access to the Internet, you’re not going to have access to the text. The iOS versions of the app are available any time you have the device.
There are a few other little buggy things going on. Some links that don’t work, some points in the combinations areas are not linked to, etc… But, the app is only in its second iteration, and I assume as more users point out problems, the app will grow and change.
Ultimately, I think the web app is the best version of the text. That being said, I do enjoy having my iPad/iPhone version for those times when a ready Internet connection is not available. I just hope they keep putting development energy into that version of the text.
What I’m still looking for
- Body point illustrations lead to the points. One of my favorite features of the text and all the digital products is the illustrations of various areas of the body, with points listed as they occur. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the digital components don’t feature a link that takes you back to the single page listing of that point!
- Customizable menu options. Screen real estate is limited. I really want to be able to decide which features and information are available on the persistent menus. For instance, at the bottom of the iPad app, I’d like to be able to get rid of the “Settings” and maybe even “Notes” section, and instead put one or two of my most used channels as a bookmark or shortcut.
I’m grateful to Peter Deadman
… for doing the hard work necessary to develop his text into so many electronic versions. I don’t read all my books electronically, but a critical reference like this one should be available in as many formats as possible. I hope that he is successful in his pursuits, which will encourage other Chinese medicine text creators and translators to put their books in digital formats like this.
Do you use any digital versions of these texts? Will you?
I’m interested to hear if you have used any of these apps, and how you felt about them. Have any questions or desired features that are still not making their way into these versions? Did you appreciate this review? Get the conversation started in the new, improved comment section below!
— Footnotes below
- Universal means that you purchase it on one device in iOS and it can run on any devices you own, iPad, iPhone or iPod. ↩