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31 January 2010 / erikduval

PDF as the MP3 for science?

As I was preparing a talk on Science2.0 for the JTEL Winter School, it struck me that, in many respects, PDF is the MP3 of science.

Songs can be captured in MP3, articles in PDF.

We used to buy song in packages called records. We used to read articles in packages called books, journals or proceedings.

We no longer go to a record shop, but download individual songs. We no longer go to libraries, but download individual articles.

We can listen to our music any time any place. We can read our papers on screen or printed, any time any place.

Yet, examples of the snowflake effect in research are much less mainstream than examples in music. We do not have an iPod for research. And we do not have an iTunes store for research. I’m not sure we’ve even had a research napster yet…

I wonder why?



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  1. Wolfgang Reinhardt / Feb 1 2010 12:40 pm

    Maybe the Kindle or the iPad can become the iPods for science. I don’t think that Amazon or the iBookStore will become what the iTunes Store means for music. But what I really (really) like with the Kindle, that you can read all the books at B&N if you’re in their shops. We should have this for Universities and Libraries as well. Whenever I load up my iPad or Kindle in the university network, I want to be able to access all publications (and their metadata, like number of citations, co-citations and so on) and books of the library.

    Having something like or pandorra will then follow. What do you think?

  2. PeterK / Feb 2 2010 1:08 pm

    Ik ben al dankbaar voor het bestaan van zoiets als WikiCFP wat ten dele voor conferenties doet wat ik voor artikels zou willen. Kindle en iPad lijken enerzijds wel ok, maar ze missen mijns insziens toch de portability van een iPod die gewoon *overal* mee kan, voor beide andere geldt dat niet echt. Bovendien is die iPod ook nog multifunctioneel, toch zeker mijn Touch – wonderbaarlijk hoe snel ik die als ‘onmisbaar’ heb ervaren. Want ik wil geen n devices voor n taken natuurlijk, dat versterkt het nadeel van meesleuren alleen maar. Maar een iScientificArticles zou super zijn, toch als er een deftige search engine achter zit – want dat is dikwijls nog de grootste hinderpaal als je op zoek bent naar iets uit die sferen…

  3. Xavier Ochoa / Feb 3 2010 6:38 pm

    That would make references some kind of playlist? If we collect all the references made by one author we could get an idea of what is his “music collection”, what he/she likes… uhm… grouping people with similar “playlist”, we already do something like that with co-citation analysis… but we can go further, recommend papers like we do with music… What if we can re-create the paper collection of the people involved in a field, we can have a for papers. Made it as a plug-in for Zotero or Jabref or a personalized tweeter feed and we could have something useful.

    As usual, you have made me curious…

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