The Journal App Wars

I have doctors asking about all four journal browsing apps; Docwise, Docphin, Read, and Browzine (click links for reviews on each app. The reviews were either done by me or guest librarians who had access to the app).  A few of the requesting doctors have used one of the above products, but it seems the vast majority of the doctors haven’t used any of the apps and are asking based on word of mouth. 

The four apps are very similar.  To me it is a bit like comparing PubMed vs Ovid Medline, both do the job well but differently.  You also have people who prefer one over the other.  One is free while the other is not. 

The biggest difference is that three of the apps show the abstracts and tables of contents to almost every medical journal known to man (I over exaggerate of course).  The full text is provided if the library/institution as a subscription to that journal.  However, there is no clear branding or explannation of what journals the library/instituion owns because Docwise, Docphin, and Read don’t know.   If a doctor views the table of contents for the Journal of Big Toe Science in Docwise, Docphin, or Read  (which is not owned by the library), the doctor is denied the full text.  Last time I checked, there was no clear message as to why they can’t get the full text. Docwise, Docphin, or Read didn’t say soemthing like, “Your library doesn’t subscribe to this journal therefore you can’t access the full text.” Docwise, Docphin, and Read do not know the library/institutions holding or access methods.

Browzine does know what the library/institution owns.  Because the library submits the list (with access methods) to Third Iron (the company that owns Browzine).  Browzine only shows those journals to doctors. There is no guessing as to whether it is available full text to the doctor.  If it is in Browzine, it should be available full text.

Let’s pretend that my hospital library provided proxy access to resources. (Most hospital libraries don’t have proxy servers to provide access to journals or other resources.)  I could have my pick of these apps to provide to my users.  My question for librarians is: Do I list all four apps and let them decide what they want?  I have a very strong feeling (based on 15 years of answering doctor’s library questions) that doctors are going to be complaining about Docwise, Docphin, or  Read not providing the full text.  After all, if the library recommended a product that connects users to the full text, shouldn’t everything be full text?

What do other libraries do?  Do you list all of the apps and let the users decide?  Do you worry that there might be confusion among the apps because they are so similar but slightly different? Do you worry that doctors might feel frustrated when they can’t get the full text? Would doctors even bother ordering the unavailable article (going outside of the app to do this) through the library? 

I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Because sometimes I feel with these journal apps I am being asked to pick between Coke and Pepsi, Ovid and PubMed.  I know the difference between them, but my users don’t. Does it matter?

4 thoughts on “The Journal App Wars”

  1. It would indeed be cool if any of the apps you mentioned provided a simple message explaining that the library does not subscribe to the electronic version of the desired journal. It would be even cooler if eventually there could be a link to the institution’s link resolver (SFX for instance) so other access options (print, ILL) are provided.

  2. The libraries at the University of Rochester partnered for an institutional subscription to BrowZine. We provide our Serials Solutions holdings to Third Iron so BrowZine knows which journals are available to faculty, staff and students. Miner Library promotes and supports only BrowZine.

  3. Michele, I am beginning to think that some of these app products are going to be one or other product. Basically as you say, we support this app and only this app. Maybe I wasn’t too far off the mark comparing them to PubMed and Ovid. Maybe I didn’t go far enough and think of them as library infrastructure products like a catalog, open URL resolver, purchasing agent, etc. You wouldn’t have two different catalog systems or two different open URL resolvers, that would be stupid. Librarians are so used to providing choices, but maybe here we can’t provide a choice if we are thinking of it as more of an infrastructure product.
    Regardless of what product a librarian chooses how do you explain that you only support one so that doctors “get it” and don’t think you don’t want to support the other. How do you explain that it is a infrastructure product of which you base access to the collections. To tell them it is like having multiple catalogs wouldn’t explain the situation to them very well. That is too librarian speak.

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