mobile

Nature.com iPad app released today

Martin Fenner
January 24, 2011 3 min read

Today nature.com released their iPad reader application. The app gives users access to Nature News and abstracts from Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Physics, Nature 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.