If you’ve been following mobile web developments, you’re probably sick of hearing all the statistics about smartphone adoption rates: 49% of small businesses, 27% of cellphone users, blah, blah, blah. Overall, the number of U.S. smartphone subscribers is pretty small; according to Mashable, it’s only about 17%. However, beyond the hype, it’s important to realize that between phones and tablets such as the iPad, mobile adoption is growing.
Database vendors and popular web page developers have jumped on board, and there are currently two major ways to access the mobile web: basic mobile webpages and “apps.” Mobile webpages are smaller or redesigned versions of full webpages; you access them through a browser on your phone and they can be bookmarked. An app is a small, specific program or application that you download onto your phone. It’s normally prepackaged to do a specific task; for example, to provide weather information or to store e-books. There are advantages to using both. Because apps are downloaded to a phone, they are always available and provide instant access to content. A mobile webpage has to be searched for through a browser, so it doesn’t have the same one-click access. However, developers are starting to enable their full websites to be automatically recognized by mobile devices, which often works well for libraries because users don’t need to remember a new web address.
For the remainder of this column, guest authors Marisol Ramos (University of Connecticut) and Daisy V. Domínguez (The City College of New York) will provide quick reviews of a few apps and mobile sites that you or your patrons may find useful. Try them out!
University of Colorado at Boulder
Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com/) is a free service that allows you to store (“drop”) files from your desktop or laptop onto a cloud environment. You can retrieve your files for later viewing using any smartphone or device connected to the Web. Create an account on the Dropbox website and download the application onto your desktop/laptop. A folder will appear where you can move PDF, Word, photos and movie files. If using an iPad or iPhone, add the app and voila! You can start reading or watching whatever files you have added to the Dropbox folder. This is an easy to use and very versatile app perfect for the green-conscious librarian on the go.
iBooks (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ibooks/id364709193?mt=8) is a free app from iTunes and probably one of the nicest e-readers out there. It is an Apple product so it only works on Apple products (iPhone, iPad, iTouch). When I tested it on our library’s iPad, I really enjoyed using it because of the flexibility it provides. I was able to change fonts, color, and light settings to get the best reading experience. The new update allows you to create notes (annotate) on books and PDF files that you can add to your “library” using the bookmark feature. The only downside about using iBooks and many free e-readers is that the selection of books may not be as current as some would prefer. But, I think this is something that will improve with time.
University of Connecticut
JSTOR Mobile Beta is a mobile webpage (http://mobile.jstor.org/) that has been tested and works on iOS, Android, and Blackberry devices. Its simple main screen offers the capability to browse by discipline and journal title or to conduct an advanced search. Once your search is conducted, you will get a clean listing of the results whereupon you can click on an article and see a miniature illegible version of it. If you try to access the entire article, you will get a notice about full-text access being limited to participating libraries and you will be led to a listing of institutions whereupon you will be led to your library database page for logging on. Needless to say, reading full text JSTOR articles on this mobile site is cumbersome. I found the JSTOR mobile webpage’s most useful features to be the ones that JSTOR focused on: the possibility to do preliminary searching on-the-go and the option to e-mail and save citations. So, give it a try and let them know what you think (there is a survey)!
To log onto RefMobile (http://www.refworks.com/mobile/), the RefWorks mobile site, you will need your school’s group code and your username and password. The main screen allows you to conduct a basic search for your citations and includes links to your folders, your entire RefWorks database, and a “Smart Add” feature which allows you to search the Web for new references (although it is not clear to me how you scroll to the second and subsequent pages of the results list). You can add comments to the “Notes” field of individual records and move references to different existing or new folders without having to sync your phone or PDA to your computer or laptop. You can also e-mail RefWorks support from the main screen. RefMobile is not as sleek as JSTOR (and there’s no survey), but it gets the basics done when you’re on the move.
Daisy V. Domínguez
The City College of New York