Reviewed June 2014
Sarah Falls, Head, Fine Arts Library
The Ohio State University
Third Iron’s BrowZine app is a licensed service that provides academic library users with the technology to collect, display, and read scholarly electronic journal content on their iOS or Android tablets. Users customize their digital bookshelves by adding and arranging content of their choice. For subject specific users, this app is a useful way to bookmark and regularly review journals, which update dynamically through a WiFi connection. This ability to follow scholarly journals will certainly appeal to faculty while the intuitive interface will resonate with the curious student as the digital bookshelves have the look and feel of a “current periodical section’ in any library, but developed on a personal level.
The app is similar in appearance and usability to iBooks or the Kindle app, is easy to use, and visually appealing to an arts audience. The user downloads the app from iTunes or Google Play and signs on to the affiliated institution for that content. Users browse journals by subject or search by title keywords and then may save their selections to bookshelves, which may be labeled, thereby allowing one to curate collections (i.e., bookshelves) according to personal needs and interests. Moreover, users may save individual journal issues or articles locally, for later access, without requiring a WiFi connection. Citations can be exported to a range of bibliographic management services including Refworks and Zotero.
BrowZine raises the visibility of electronic journals that may otherwise be lost or buried in a library catalog record. For art and design researchers, titles such as Art Documentation, Leonardo, October, Word & Image, and Design and Culture are available alongside many other journals throughout the humanities.Third Iron works with content providers and publishers to ensure journals are viewable through BrowZine; there is also a desire to make open access journals available, alongside traditional publications. In addition, the team at Third Iron works with librarians to gather suggestions for new content, as well as providing ongoing support for the tool.
There are a few drawbacks to BrowZine. Third Iron promotes open access content through BrowZine but little in the realm of humanities publications is actually available, and any such content is typically supplied by traditional publishers such as Cambridge University Press. Title information must be refreshed or updated locally, by the library, requiring a manual load of holdings from the institution into BrowZine. Consequently, a new periodical acquired by a given library may take weeks before it is available via BrowZine. (A recent Third Iron newsletter announced that that automated updates with Serials Solutions content is a forthcoming enhancement.) Content is limited to scholarly journals rather than trade magazines, which may make BrowZine less useful for designers or architects who rely heavily on such publications. Finally, the extent of BrowZine’s content is directly related to an institution’s license. And while some journals, such as Art Documentation, may have a page in BrowZine, they are not currently available due to institutional licensing and embargoes. In addition, an institution may have select access to a journal through a database such as JSTOR and results in a holding record in BrowZine; however, unless the institution directly subscribes to that electronic journal, readers must endure an embargo period before seeing that content in BrowZine.
Despite these drawbacks, subject specialists, particularly those in the arts, have a wonderful means of promoting a new way of organizing information sources while exposing underutilized resources. The ease at which BrowZine places the scholarly electronic resources at our fingertips to be integrated with iBooks and other e-publishing apps, pushes us closer to a utopic time in the not distant future where digitized arts information is more readily available and accessible.