Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reading Journals in the Era of Tablets

I recently wrote a blog post on why readers don't use their tablets to read journal articles.  There were several possible reasons.

  1. Wanting to work with PDFs rather than HTML
  2. Difficulty annotating the PDFs on tablets (not knowing best tools for this)
  3. Hyperlinks may not work in PDFs
  4. Wanting to flip between a citation# in the text of the article and the reference in the bibliography.  This is easier to do on paper.
The workflow that might meet most of these needs (except #4 scroll to bottom for a work around for this):
Model workflow for annotating Journal PDFs on Tablets

  1. On you Desktop/Laptop
    1. Get table of contents and abstracts of Journals sent to my Google Reader via RSS feeds
    2. When you want, you get the full text of the article and save to Dropbox
    3. Journals are now increasing providing PDF with OCR which allows for highlighting.  If the PDF cannot be interpreted as text by the PDF reader, then the words cannot be highlighted, or the hyperlinks will not work.
  2. On your tablet
    1. Use EZPDF which is a full featured PDF reader and annotator.  It has some awesome features like:
      1. Highlighting
      2. Adding notes
      3. Drawing free text
      4. Adding arrows, circles or rectangles
      5. Night more (background becomes dark and font is white)
      6. Text to speech - actually reads the article for you.
    2. Go to Dropbox on you tablet and open the PDF with EZPDF
    3. Start reading and annotating (Long tap).  
    4. Choose not to make a copy of the article for annotation. Annotate the original in Dropbox. This will leave the annotated article in Dropbox as opposed to another folder on your tablet
This is a video of how to use EZPDF on an Android tablet.  There are more details on a blog here by Sleepless Ninja

The annotated PDFs are stored in Dropbox which has pros and cons.  This is good because the library automatically syncs with all your computers.  The negative is the inability to use this library to cite when writing an article or when creating bibliography.

The alternative work flow that supports citations and bibliography is to use something like Zotero.  Since Zotero introduced the standalone product that works with Chrome and Safari in addition to FireFox it has become even more attractive.  There is a tool called Zotfile that allows connecting your Zotero library to Dropbox and syncing with the tablet.
I have not explored Zotfile yet but I love Zotero so look out for an update in a future post.

If the journal does not have hyperlinked references in its PDF format, go to the HTML format and check if these are available.  If they are, then use Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF [File>>create PDF>>from web page>> enter URL
This will maintain all the hyperlinks that are in the HTML version.