App Review: BrowZine

February 21, 2018

BrowZine is a must for anyone looking to carry a wealth of knowledge with them on-the-go.

I am not a fan of paper. I try to lead a 'digital life' if possible. If I need a text book or reference book, I will look for a digital copy. If I get a stack of documents that warrant keeping, they become PDFs that are available on any of my devices. But occasionally there are things that you can't avoid, like journals. It would be great if they all could come digitally, but not every journal provides that service - especially if it's a journal that is provided free or part of your college specialty.

Do I read these journals from cover to cover? No, but I typically find the articles that I find interesting or germane to my practice. If I found an article worth keeping, I would typically keep the issue versus throwing it out. But over time, you have a massive stack of journals in which you can't remember what articles you were referencing and your significant other is asking you to turn back from a mountain into a molehill.

Over the years, this process has evolved. There are now a growing class of apps that allow physicians to read academic journals on their mobile devices. These apps include Docphin, Read by QxMD, and BrowZine. The majority of apps are limited to specific medical and health content, but BrowZine is different and that is why I prefer it over the others.

Whereas most of the the other apps in that class use the free data from the PubMed Database, BrowZine works with the publishers and the hospital/institution's library to get their content to you. The big names are there such Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, JAMA, and the New England Journal. But there can be other medical society journals included, culminating in a large collection of journals.

After setting up the relationship with the publisher, BrowZine then works with the individual libraries. The libraries and the institution pay an annual licensing fee. They make the app available to their staff for free. A majority of the libraries text holdings match up with the journal list provided to you in the app. You can then see the journals with the full text which are available because your institution either paid for full text access or the journal is already freely available. There are journals that unfortunately do not work with BrowZine even though your library pays for them-they are not included or seen in the app.

Once you download the app, you can start using it without having to create a specific BrowZine account. If you had access to your library remotely through gateways such as ATHENS, you will need your log-in and your password when asked after selecting your hospital or institution in the BrowZine app. If you want synchronized content between mobile devices, you will need to create a BrowZine account.

After selecting and logging into your hospital or institution, you can see the content that you have access to.

The interface is a bit skeuomorphic with a customizable bookstand or newsstand display. You can go through your institutional content and select your favorite journals. You can then add journals to the bookshelf. It has an appearance very similar to the iBooks app on iOS devices.

You can customize shelves and place particular journals on that shelf in terms of subject matter, specialty, or just alphabetically.

When you select a journal, you can add it to your selected shelf by dragging it in. You can view a list of available issues for that title. Once you select an issue you can view a list of articles which are in PDF format. You can then select articles to be read or saved/downloaded to your device to be available in any app which can read a PDF. You can share these articles via email.

For example, if you have a journal club and all of the journals are available within BrowZine, you can select the articles and forward them electronically to your group, residents, etc and not have to go to the library and photocopy and then scan them, and then forward electronically. The app can even notify you when there is a journal available to be read, if you choose to have it provide notifications.

It is quite self explanatory to use. It is easy to use. But mostly it is convenient. I can have the app on my iPhone and iPad, go on a flight and have downloaded articles I want to read, or be notified that a new journal is available and to simply browse through the list of articles and download the ones I want to take with me right before the flight. Though some may be annoyed by the appearance, it looks and feels intuitive right from the app opening. The downside is that you may not have all the journals you need based on your hospital/institution agreements. But if you are looking for a convenient way of keeping up to date without carrying a bag full of journals, this may be your app.