Portable Reading in the Academic World
We are all well aware of the growing use of portable devices as sources of information and reading material. We see it everywhere; on the commute, seated in public places, and even at the dinner table, people are constantly scanning their screens for the latest news stories and industry updates. Despite this trend infiltrating all aspects of our private lives, academic staffers and students are still very much inclined to do their work on laptops and computers that are firmly fixed to desks.
This is likely to change in the near future, with the development of intelligent app technology. Institutions have been able to take out sitewide subscriptions to the growing digital archives of magazines for quite some time. Access is typically provided to subscribers using IP authentication so that users at the institution can log in to any computer on-site and click an access link, and, voila, the magazine appears before their eyes. And yet, that is no longer the fastest way to view the latest issues. With some platforms, students and staffers are now able to download the appropriate app for the magazine-available at both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store – and when the user opens the app within the IP range of the institution, it will automatically detect any subscriptions the university has and load them up for immediate viewing.
Reaching Users Where They Are
The technological development of online reading apps opens up several new opportunities for studying. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that the apps give users unmatched access to educational resources while on the move. By removing the requirement of a computer to access online resources, libraries should see an increased level of usage, which is a primary performance indicator when assessing subscriptions. Also, this provides a new way for libraries to ensure that their users have access to all of the necessary resources for success. A timeless concern for librarians is making sure that their user population is aware of all the resources at their disposal. With the invention of an intelligent app, that will be as simple as opening up the app and being able to see which issues are available.
In the past, Exact Editions has done research into offering individuals access to magazines using location-based services, such as beacons. While there are certain advantages to this system, our IPbased network subscriptions have proven to be a popular option, combining the immediacy of app access with a purchase model that is familiar to institutions. The IPauthenticated access requires that the user is on the institutional WiFi, effectively stopping the leaking of content for free that can occur when using geolocation technology. This guarantees the exclusivity of paid resources for registered institutional users and encourages increased integration with library systems.
Getting the Display Right
The technology is ready, and it is now a matter of integration. Libraries can facilitate this transition by offering links to app stores where users can download the appropriate platform. Further, library homepages are often (understandably) dedicated to promoting new resources and services, rather than advertising digital platforms. However, in this case, increasing the visibility and awareness of the apps will be an essential element in their successful introduction into the academic sphere. It is easy to envisage this occurring more frequently in the future, when the app technology is inevitably more widespread.
There is, of course, also work to be done at the production end. Visually, online magazine providers must invest time and effort into making sure that the content maps seamlessly onto the plethora of devices that exist in the market today. Quite frequently, providers take the view that the content needs to be reshaped, or even redesigned, to fit the device; however, Exact Editions’ strategy has been to exactly replicate the content on all types of devices. This means that all content, images, and URLs, as well as the layout of the magazine, are preserved, rather than lost in translation. As screen technology improves, this strategy of maintaining the same format across devices also finds strength, allowing users to study extensive and old archives as they originally appeared.
It is important to recognize that this system is also of commercial benefit to the publishers that host content on the platform as well as to the library users. The main reason for this is that publishers have the option to create a branded app. People at the university can use this version to access the magazine, which contributes to strengthening the brand. This in turn may result in individuals taking out subscriptions to the magazine once they’ve completed their education, due to their positive experience with the app. The other obvious advantage of this system is that advertising campaigns will reach a large, young, and diverse audience.
The key message is that excellent library resources can, and should, now be offered online and with dedicated apps. With the development of ever-more-sophisticated and powerful mobile devices, it is safe to expect an increasing demand for portability in the academic world.
Read more on the latest tech trends in education.
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