v25 #5 Another Look at Browzine

by | Dec 5, 2013 | 0 comments

by Angela R. Flenner  (Digital Services Librarian, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston)  <[email protected]>

Browzine is an app that delivers e-journal content to your iPad or Android tablet.  The app itself is free, but in order to access the journals your library subscribes to, your institution must purchase an annual subscription.

The move to electronic journals has benefits over print journals but also costs.  Browzine aims to replicate some of the experience of hard copy journals (such as the serendipitous browsing experience) while taking advantage of some of the benefits of e-journals.  The reading experience is an improvement over reading in a browser on your computer screen, especially if you plan to read the whole article.  It’s an even greater improvement over reading in in-browser on an iPad, which, depending on the vendor, is sometimes impossible to scroll past the first page.

Often the best option is to download the pdf of the article and read it in iBooks, but it can be difficult to keep these files organized.  The file names are usually an incomprehensible string of letters and numbers, so you have to open each file to find a specific title.  Browzine improves this situation by organizing your Save Articles by journal and renaming the file with the title of the article.  An additional improvement might be the ability to search one’s own reading list by author or title.

The biggest issue with Browzine is that it does not deliver content from all of our subscribed journals.  In our feedback from faculty, this was the only complaint we heard.  One part of that is that Third Iron’s technical team needs to configure access to each publisher individually, so they are gradually adding publishers each month.  The longer-term issue is that they can’t provide access to journals that we subscribe to only through aggregators.  From what I understand, this is because they can’t handle the ever-changing coverage data and embargoes.

Some librarians were critical that Browzine isn’t available on a desktop or laptop computer.  Third Iron didn’t rule it out as a future development, but they did say it wasn’t high on their priorities.  In their view, there are many ways to view articles from your desk.  I could see the benefit of a Web app that lets you add articles to your Browzine library for reading later.  Third Iron did say that they plan to develop apps for smart phones in the future.

After our trial in the spring of 2013, we were impressed by the usability and organization of the app.  We had some reservations about subscribing, though.  Primarily this was because the journals Browzine provides access to were heavily weighted towards the sciences and particularly medical science.  Our institution is primarily liberal arts, and we were a little disappointed with the coverage of the humanities.  Soon after our trial, however, Third Iron added access to several more publishers, including over 200 journals from Project MUSE.  The coverage is still fuller in the science and technology fields — in our instance, the app covers 904 journals in Biological Sciences, 1,563 journals in Biomedical and Health Sciences, but only 249 journals in Arts and Humanities and 144 in History.  Partly this is because more journals exist in the natural science and technology fields, but the coverage of our humanities journals is still smaller, percentage-wise.

Despite the limitations I’ve discussed, we still decided to subscribe.  Several of us in the library have started checking it regularly, using it like Zite or Feedly but for scholarly journals.  We plan to spend some time this fall reaching out to the faculty to make sure they know what it is and how to use it.  During the trial, we got some very positive feedback from those that used it, but we think that it can get more use, especially as the list of included journals grows.

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