Saturday, April 14, 2012

Academic Journals - will you read them on eReaders and Tablets?

I recently became involved in redesigning the web presence of a journal of a national academic medical society.  The company tasked with the web design process conducted a small number of interviews with current and potential journal readers.
They interviewed 3 people, with various backgrounds, training levels and interests in technology.

Some of the responses on these interviews were quite interesting and maybe surprising.  Here are two opinions that were quite unanimous.

1. Everyone wanted to have the ability to download articles as PDFs.
2. None of the respondents (wanted to) read the articles on a mobile device (even a large screen one like a tablet).

As I was pondering about this, I saw a piece about eBooks and whether they impact learning negatively. The article discusses how one uses one's visual memory to link information with its location in a text book and why this can help recall.  You can read the piece on at
I had a great discussion on this article with some folks over on Google+.  The piece also has a nice video of how people use visual channels to remember information.

This morning I saw a presentation by Michael A Mabe,CEO of International Association of STM Publishers recorded at the UKSG 35th Annual Conference in Glasgow, March 2012.  I found a link to this talk on posts on Google+ by 2 folks who are thinkers and terrific curators on information in my areas of interest - Bertalan Mesko' and A.J. Cann. The presentation discusses what researchers and readers want in their academic publishing and why these needs have led to the current format of the print journal and why technology has not made much of a change in this format.

Just to make matters more interesting, I remembered reading a piece by Clay Shirky on Social reading.  I had saved it to my Evernote and I dug it up again. It is titled "How we will read" and you can find it here

Clay talks about how when he used to read on the original Kindle it did not have e-mail to distract him.  He mentions Nick Carr and the use of Frost's quote as a book is a "momentary stay against confusion".  He talks wistfully of the times when he was bored and the importance of boredom as a way to recognize the 
gap between what you are interested in and your current environment.  But he moves on to discuss the benefits of annotating on his new Kindle and the value of social reading.

Maybe with evolution of the appropriate apps on mobile devices and as readers experience them, we will change our habits? Here is an image from @gtuckerkellog describing his workflow for reading his scientific literature on tablets.  TechCrunch has an article about how Netizine might be a solution.

Where did I read the Clay Shirky interview?  On Evernote app on my Motorola Xoom of course!


  1. My problem with reading academic literature on kindle etc is that i read paper copies with one finger in the references page and that i find it frustrating that there is not a quick or easy way of doing this when reading pdfs on a kindle. Or I am flicking back and to between (e.g.) methods and results sections or results and discussion etc. I bought the big kindle with a view to making much academic reading paperless and i have hardly used it and will probably sell it - pretty much for this reason. I did not realise that this flicking back and forward was so important to me until i could not easily do it!

  2. Good point. One would hope that the eReader format should support a way to click on the citation# and have a pop up with the reference from the bibliography. That might make the eReader even "better" than the print version?

  3. Thought I had commented... here is a response!