Review of BrowZine for iPhone, iPad, and Android

BrowZine is one in a growing class of apps that allow you to read academic journals on your mobile device. However, unlike Docphin and Read, BrowZine is not limited to content from the health and medical sciences.

BrowZine has a different approach; as opposed to using the freely available data from the PubMed database, it works with certain publishers and your institution’s library to make their content available on your device. Many major publishers and big name journals are included such as Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, JAMA, and New England Journal of Medicine. Highwire press, the platform for many medical society journals, university presses, and academic societies are also included, resulting in an interdisciplinary collection of journals.

BrowZine works with libraries, which pay an annual licensing fee to make the app available to their communities, to match the institution’s full text holdings up with its journal list. The result is that you only see those journals for which full text is available, either because your institution pays for full text access or because the journal is open access i.e. freely available to everyone. Journals that your library pays for that aren’t working with BrowZine are not included in the app.

If you do not have an affiliation with one of the institutions that licenses BrowZine, then you will only see open access journals. There are a number of open access journals available, including the BMC and PLOS series of journals.

You do not have to create a BrowZine account; once you select your institution, you will be prompted to sign in with the institutional username and password you use to access library resources from off campus. You can create a BrowZine account if you have the app on multiple devices and want to sync your preferences across them.

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Once you download the app, you will be prompted to select your institution and sign in. This will allow BrowZine to display what you have access to.

The interface consists of a customizable bookstand and newsstand displays. The default is My Bookshelf, which offers quick access to your favorite journals. You can add journals to your bookshelf from the BrowZine Library, which is browseable by subject or by title.

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Due to the interdisciplinary nature of BrowZine, the subjects are different than what you get in dedicated health resources. For example, the sub-specialties are rolled together in two chunks: A-N and O-Z.

Having multiple disciplines in the same place can be a benefit though, especially for specialties with closely related subjects, like Psychiatry, which can browse journals in either Psychiatry or Mental and Social Health.

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In the Titles A-Z menu, you can browse or search for certain titles. Given the number of titles available, searching is a lot faster than browsing the whole list when you know what you are looking for.

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When viewing a journal, you can add it to your customizable bookshelf, view a list of available issues, or show the journal in the larger BrowZine subject library. If there is a title you are going to want to browse regularly, add it to your bookshelf to save time.

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You can place journals on your bookshelf by dragging them onto different shelves and you can label shelves to create groups or collections of different journals. Journals can easily be dragged onto shelves the way you move an app in iOS.

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You can view PDFs of articles from the journal table of contents. PDFs can be saved within the Saved Articles section in BrowZine, or opened and saved within any app on your device with the ability to view and save PDFs (e.g., iBooks, Dropbox, Kindle, Box, Drive). It is easy to share articles via email, Facebook, and Twitter. In addition, bibliographic management tools are integrated, including Zotero, RefWorks, and Mendeley.

Information on the BrowZine website notes that EndNote is not currently an option and it does not show up with the other citation management tools. However, I could actually open and save the PDF in my EndNote app under Document Management.

If a PDF is available through an aggregated package, the save options may differ slightly.

Evidence Behind the App

BrowZine provides an interface for accessing existing information from academic journals and does not present evidence outside the original articles themselves. The selection of journals is high quality, and new journals are added regularly.

  • Price
    • Free to end users; Libraries and institutions pay an annual licensing fee.
    • Titles from multiple disciplines are available.
    • Customization and licensing from your library means all content you see should be available in full text.
    • Integration with citation management tools.
    • Bookshelf layout is simple, but customizable and intuitive.
  • Dislikes
    • There are no annotation tools for PDFs inside the app.
    • Information is browse-only; no search tools are available.
  • Overall

    BrowZine offers an intuitive, straightforward way to browse academic journals on your smartphone or tablet. If you like browsing through specific journals, this is a great way to stay current. With no annotation tools, searching, or suggested articles, this simple tool may be less useful for clinicians who have other free journal app options. For those faculty and students looking to read journals outside those available in PubMed, BrowZine may be the right fit.

    Note: If you have a Kindle, you can download the BrowZine app here.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    The user interface is simple but intuitive.

  • Multimedia Usage
    • N/A
  • Price

    The app is free to users, but libraries pay an annual fee to license it for their institutions. Users without institutional affiliations get limited journals.

  • Real World Applicability

    This is a useful app for following journals.

  • Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPad