Browse a journal, digitally

Over the last month, our library at Towson University has been trialing the BrowZine iPad app. Library Tech Talk is happy to have Laksamee Putnam share her thoughts and experiences with the app!

BrowZine Logo

BrowZine is a content delivery app designed to bring journal articles to your tablet. Currently it is only available for iPad, with Android and mobile interfaces under development. The app is simple to use and brings back the browsability of a journal which you might lack while accessing electronic formats from a computer. However, limitations to accessible content and annual cost may deter budget conscious libraries from being early BrowZine adopters.

For a brief introduction I recommend watching their video:

Accessing Journals

BrowZine is a free app created by Third Iron. After downloading the app, users have instant access to a free, no-login required open access library. Complete journals and back issues, such as the Public Library of Science journals, are available. This makes the app great for users who are interested in browsing their favorite online open access journals on an iPad. Additionally, if you are affiliated with an institution that subscribes to BrowZine you can also access your institution’s paid journal subscriptions. Journals can be placed onto a personalized bookshelf for easy access and notification of new available articles.

Not all of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listings are available, and many of your institution’s holdings may also be missing. This may be because BrowZine has not yet uploaded the content or has not negotiated access agreements with a publisher. However content is being loaded everyday and the Third Iron team has been extremely responsive to request or questions about access. Currently, journals can be added if they work with CrossRef and therefore have a DOI; if a journal you want access to is missing and it has a DOI you may want to send an inquiry to BrowZine.

Choosing a Journal Issue in BrowsZine

Choosing a Journal Issue in BrowsZine


The digital browsability of BrowZine will appeal to users on all levels, though faculty members may be the largest target audience in many academic libraries. Faculty members who enjoyed receiving paper journals to flip through, or who let their paper journals stack up unread are able to quickly scan issues via a digital table of contents. Frequently read journals can be placed onto a users BrowZine bookshelf, where alerts will tell the user when new content has been added. User can also save articles to a separate BrowZine shelf for offline reading.

A slight drawback to just being allowed to browse is the lack of any search features within a journal. Want to find any article on cancer in Cell? Too bad! For a librarian, that could be a teachable moment within class, to showcase the power of utilizing a database over the simplicity of skimming a single journal, opening a discussion about the different pros and cons for browsing versus searching.


Reading articles within BrowZine is easy; a high quality PDF takes moments to load and users can use the familiar pinch to zoom gesture in order to read or examine the paper closely. BrowZine also allows users to send articles to various other apps/social media/accounts. This includes annotation apps such as GoodReader, cloud storage such as DropBox and citation trackers such as Zotero.  A connected academic will appreciate the flexibility of these options, and also utilize them if they want to get their hands on a version they can save/print/share etc.

Open and send articles

Open and send articles

Depending on the size of your university and your library’s budget, the institutional cost for BrowZine could be prohibitively expensive, especially if you are unsure of how many of your faculty/students have a tablet device. In this case, you may consider exploring the available free, open access content.

Applications in Library Instruction

Considering the tablet’s growing popularity and the library prerogative to get patrons to utilize library resources, BrowZine could be a great way to market your library. If you have iPads for instruction, getting students to “hold” an electronic article, break down the different requirements for peer reviewed journals and to understand the breadth of topics would perhaps be more tangible through BrowZine. Faculty members could ask students to find and critique an article in a specific journal and then email in their responses. Libraries with circulating iPads could include BrowZine linked to the open access library or, if an institutional subscriber, access to the library’s electronic journal subscriptions. The convenience and visual appeal of BrowZine makes it an intriguing addition to library service and could creatively enhance instruction.

Let us know in the comments how you have used BrowZine!

Laksamee Putnam is a Research & Instruction Librarian at Towson University, Albert S. Cook Library.  She is specifically liaison to the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.  Laksamee holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana.  Her research interests focus on the use of emerging technologies and social media in science.   Find out more about her here or follow her on Twitter!