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Biomedical Research At Your Fingertips

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Screen capture from an eReader showing an article from PubMed
Credit: NCBI

You don’t need to be a researcher to enjoy keeping up with the latest discoveries in biomedical research, and now there’s a great new tool to help you.

In case you didn’t know, PubMed Central is a free archive of biomedical and life science journal literature at the NIH’s National Library of Medicine. PubMed Central provides electronic access to that journal collection—more than 2.6 million scientific articles and counting. And, anyone can use it. In fact, PubMed Central is a hot site—700,000 individuals visit it everyday to take advantage of this great knowledge base.

But until today reading the E-version of these articles has been a bit of a drag. Poring over scientific articles on a laptop, tablet, or even your phone involved patiently scrolling up and down the columns, keeping your place, and being able flip back and forth to find tables, figures, and references.

Now, the folks at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine have created the “PubReader”—a reader friendly presentation style—that will magically fit a journal article to any screen, laptop, or tablet, and enable you to flip through a paper the way you would a novel on an E-reader. No special app is needed. And, it works on most browsers. As of today about 1.3 million articles, or about half the entire collection, will be readable in the new PubReader style.

PubReader bookmarks your place in the paper and there’s another neat feature: a bar at the bottom of the page that contains thumbnails of all the tables and figures in the paper. So you can keep your place in the discussion while just touching the thumbnail to review a figure anywhere in the paper.

It is also invaluable tool for medicine and public health initiatives that rely on mobile devices like phones, tablets, or laptops; here PubReader presents articles in a way they can be read easily in the field.

I think this is a great tool that will make biomedical science more accessible to everyone. Could this quench our need to print out hard copies of scientific articles?  Could entire forests of trees be saved? I’m counting on PubReader to allow me to stay on top of the latest discoveries—whether I’m on the train, on the tarmac, or just waiting in line for a latte.

So check it out: