Nature.com iPad app released today

Today nature.com released their iPad reader application. The app gives users access to Nature News and abstracts from NatureNature GeneticsNature MedicineNature BiotechnologyNature PhysicsNature Reviews Microbiology, Nature Reviews Genetics and Nature Communications. Full text access to these journals can be purchased for $69.99 per year (Nature costs $79.99 per year with free access to fulltext articles until February 28).

The iPad app is in many ways similar to the nature.com iPhone app released last February, but takes advantage of the larger screen. A Nature News article looks like this on the website:

… and like this in the nature.com reader:

Much nicer. The Add to Connotea button is interesting. Connotea is a social bookmarking service by nature.com, but less popular than CiteULike and Mendeley. So why is there no choice?

The home screen lists all sources and articles. Users can search nature.com, PubMed and arXiv, but the latter two sources are hidden behind the Advanced button (in the upper right corner).

The saved searches and bookmarks are stored on nature.com and can be shared with the website and iPhone app. The home screen doesn’t follow iPad conventions – the sources don’t appear in a floating window when holding the iPad vertical. Journals can be added here:

Journal articles look similar to Nature News. References open in a popup window:

Figures open not in a popup, but in a separate window, and they can be resized. It is unfortunately not possible to scroll through the figures of a paper.

The nature.com reader doesn’t reflow content when you hold the iPad vertically, just shows less white margin on both sides. Author names are not links, and for some content the app switches to web browser mode.

Reading papers on the iPad is much more fun than on the iPhone. And it was a smart move to use ePub for these mobile apps instead of PDF, I think that ePub has a bright future for scholarly content. This is version 1.0, I’m sure future versions will do further improve the reading experience thanks to HTML5. The prices for a personal subscription sounds reasonable, especially for the weekly Nature.

I have one problem with the application: the papers I read are not all published by Nature Publishing Group. I would very much prefer an ePub reader for all journal content, similar to the iPad PDF readers Sente, Papers and Mendeley. We already have several ePub readers for the iPad (e.g. Stanza and iBooks), but we need more journal publishers that offer their content in this format. The press release last February hinted that Nature Publishing Group will provide content in ePub format for other e-readers. Subscription journals such as the Nature journals have another problem, they want to charge the iPad user for reading content. This makes it more difficult for them than for open access publishers to distribute content in innovative ways, and that is probably one reason the nature.com iPad app is a closed system that can’t import, export or print articles.

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7 Responses to Nature.com iPad app released today

  1. Euan Adie says:

    Thanks for checking out the app, Martin. Better figure navigation is definitely on the to-do list.

    We tried out a couple of different layouts for the content – in the end the white borders in landscape layout won as the most readable. It also serves to make the app look a bit less like a website. On that note I’m interested to hear if anybody prefers paging content over scrolling!

  2. Martin Fenner says:

    Euan,

    Thanks for the info. I agree that the white borders in landscape mode are very readable. But iPad almost users expect a different layout when changing orientation. I might prefer paging ore scrolling, but maybe just because this is the way most apps do it.

    I like the Flipbook interface, some of it would also work with the nature.com app.

  3. Neil says:

    NPG’s attitude to Connotea is somewhat perplexing. They offer the choice of other bookmarking services at some sites (e.g. Nature journal articles), but not others. I understand the preference for their own service but frankly, Connotea is broken, barely-maintained and has been in a poor state for years. It should either be completely revised or shut down.

  4. Martin Fenner says:

    Neil, I agree and have also said so in a recent presentation at the STM Annual Conference. It would be a strange world if I had to bookmark my Nature Publishing Group papers in Connotea, my Elsevier papers in 2collab and my Springer papers in CiteULike.

  5. “It is unfortunately not possible to scroll through the figures of a paper.” – This is where considering how people read is really important. Scrolling through the figures is one of the best ways to skim a paper.

    Can you export the Nature ePub to other apps? In that case, a subscription might be worth considering…

  6. Jodi, no ePub export yet, you can only share the link.

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