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!

Guest Post: The iPad and the Library

Even before its official launch on April 3rd, the iPad had already received its first reviews. Overall, the initial reviews were positive. And while many see room for improvements, everyone agrees that the iPad (with help from app developers and several major publishers) will be an influential force on portable touch computing. The big question for librarians and libraries is, How will it impact us? To answer this question, let’s take a look at the iPad from a librarian’s perspective…


Publishers backing the iPad include:

  • Hachette Livre,
  • HarperCollins,
  • Simon & Schuster,
  • The Penguin Group,
  • Macmillan,
  • Perseus Book Group, and
  • Workman Publishing

With backers like these (missing from this list of powerhouses is Random House), the iPad has already received enough support as a publishing platform to affect ebook pricing by important merchants such as Amazon.


With the new iBook store, Apple hopes to influence ebooks like it did digital music with iTunes. To start, the iBook store includes 30,000 DRM-free Project Gutenberg titles. Apple also announced that all non-DRM ePub formats are iPad compatible. A major issue for libraries will be how the iPad works with subscription ebook services that use a DRM format (i.e. Overdrive and Netlibrary). iPhone users can currently access NetLibrary via their web browser. Therefore, the same should hold true for Netlibrary web access via the iPad. Another possibility would be for ebook services to make their content compatible with apps like the Iceberg Reader from ScrollMotion (note the Random House content). Additionally, libraries could take advantage of iPad apps from book sellers like Barnes & Nobles and Amazon. With these apps, the iPad is one of only a few ebook readers that can display ebooks purchased through these popular bookstores.


Textbook publishers are looking at new possibilities for digital textbooks on the iPad that go far beyond simple text conversion. Here are some examples that will be available for the iPad:

The future of textbooks on the iPad depends on how students and educators take to the new format. For libraries, it could mean:

  • the ability to provide these textbooks on demand with a quick iTunes download, and
  • if e-textbooks receive wide academic use, libraries will need to better accommodate this new information format.

Seton Hill University has announced a program to give each student an iPad, which could significantly influence future textbook selections at this campus.


Newspaper and magazine publishers are looking to the iPad to replace declining sales of print subscriptions. Most online content from newspapers and magazines will display on the iPad’s web browser (though Flash content is not viewable). Some periodicals will have dedicated iPad apps available through the iTunes store. It’s important to remember that apps initially advertised as free may later require individual subscriptions. Also unclear is whether current subscribers will receive price breaks or if institutional subscriptions will be possible for libraries. However, before we over-think things, let’s keep in mind that many of these subscription issues can be resolved simply by database companies making their products iPad compatible. For example, EBSCOHost has an updated iPad friendly full-text view (taken from ERIC):

EBSCOHost Full-Text screenshot

Other publishers are looking to revolutionize periodicals, integrating multimedia and interactivity that is only possible on devices like the iPad.

Other media

One exciting release is the Netflix app, which allows Netflix subscribers to stream video to the iPad. ABC also has an app that streams many of their popular TV shows directly to the iPad. However, a major complaint about the iPad is that it does not support Adobe Flash. This fact has forced several online video services, such as YouTube, to provide an iPad friendly version of their videos. However, iPad’s lack of Flash could cause major problems for libraries providing online access to video databases. Many of these databases rely on Flash to provide content, and unfortunately it is unlikely that academic databases will be as quick to respond to the iPad as YouTube was.

So how does this help the library?

The blog Gizmodo has a recent post about why the iPad is the future. The gist of the post is that the iPad’s simplicity makes it easy for anyone to learn. For libraries, the iPad could serve as a great low maintenance computer to be loaned out for casual use, freeing up desktop computers for more heavy duty work. Students looking to check Blackboard, email, or Facebook may choose to borrow an iPad over sitting at a desktop computer. Additionally, the iPad’s use of iTunes software makes adding and deleting content very easy. If anything goes wrong, iTunes can quickly restore your iPad to its default settings. This feature also provides librarians a fast and easy method for clearing the iPad after each loan.

As a computer for librarians, the iPad will make a great roaming reference tool. The built in browser does a decent job displaying most library databases and catalogs. Most full-text content works with the iPad out of the box. I believe I can complete about 90% of my daily work on the iPad platform (with the addition of an iPad dock keyboard for lengthy typing). The iPad is also handy for catching up on all those articles you’ve been meaning to read. Instead of printing them, you can read them as PDFs on the iPad.

Only time will tell the extent of the iPad’s influence, but it is undoubtedly an emerging technology worth library attention.

Ken Fujiuchi is currently the Emerging Technology Librarian in the E.H. Butler Library at Buffalo State College. He has also worked as a lab and instructional facilities coordinator and adjunct faculty member in the School of Informatics at the University at Buffalo. Ken holds an Masters in Library Science from the University at Buffalo. His research interests include information literacy, information storage and retrieval, and human-computer interaction.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at to find out how you too can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.