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Overall value:
85 pts
ReadCube is a pocket PDF library that enables users to quickly and easily read, manage and discover research literature and articles from PubMed, Google Scholar and ReadCube databases.

Scores

Cost-in-use
Free
100 pts
App Interface Usability
Easy to use and navigate
88 pts
Multimedia Usage
The app links to articles that may contain images or graphs
80 pts
Real World Usability
Useful app for collecting and managing medical journal PDFs, but it's dependable on the desktop version
71 pts

If you're a medical student, you know how important is that your PDF library of medical journals and literature is well organized.
Without that, you'd probably find yourself lost in the mess of too many topics to research, too many articles to find, collect and read, or too much information to cite or keep track of.

Luckily, having an organized library is possible thanks to the numerous mobile apps for iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets. These apps keep articles and literature you need to organize all in one spot.

We already reviewed several useful apps that do a great job in keeping medical students, scholars, residents, and doctors up-to-date with medical articles and literature, including Read by QxMD app, Docphin app, and the most recent review of DocWire app.

The app we review today is another pocket library of medical research journals and literature. ReadCube app enables users to quickly and easily read, manage and discover research literature and articles from PubMed, Google Scholar and ReadCube databases.

ReadCube app is mainly designed as a companion to the ReadCube desktop app, but it also works as a standalone app, enabling users to access their papers anywhere and across various devices.

However, standalone app is a bit 'crippled' mainly because there's no option to import existing PDFs inside the app. All papers must be imported in the desktop app, and then they would be accessible in mobile app as well.

There's another problem I've encountered at the very beginning. ReadCube requires users to register an account. However, registering an account takes you outside the app. From a standpoint of a good interface design and user experience, this is a big 'no-no.'

Creating an account alone wasn't complicated. It requires users to enter basic information such as email, name, as well as your institution and your position.

After registration is completed, the app opens to the main screen, which is empty, featuring search function that enables users to look up for articles from Google Scholar, PubMed, and ReadCube databases.

The search feature has no autocomplete function, which means that your queries may be prone to misspellings, giving you inaccurate results.

I've started by typing simple queries, such as 'chest pain,' 'hypertension,' 'diabetes,' etc. The list populated with results, which were different, depending on the source/database chosen.

For example, PubMed listed featured articles that were freely available on PubMed, but also on other sources, for example, Sage Journal.

ReadCube database mostly featured medical books, or chapters of books or journals, available from various sources, mostly paid, such as Elsevier or Springer.

Google Scholar search took me to the web page of Google Scholar, requiring me to sign in and prove that I'm not a robot. Unfortunately, CAPTCHA wasn't displayed, so I couldn't complete this step and view Google Scholar articles.

To open an article, simply tap on its title in the list. But here goes another problem. If you've set an institution during registration, the app would require an institutional login to access articles, even the those that are available for free (PubMed).

You can solve this issue by removing the institution in settings, but they you might have a problem accessing the paid content your institution is subscribed to.

I'm not sure why the app creators complicated this. Many other similar apps usually have a clear distinction between free and paid articles, and the institutional credentials would be only required if you're trying to access the paid content.

Once you manage to go through this nuisance, the article would open, showing the summary along with several options that would help you manage the article.

Here you can add the article to the library, favorite it, view it on the web or download it. You can also add notes to each article, edit meta, as well as share it and view metrics. This is, however, possible to view only in ReadCube Pro, after enabling it in the ReadCube desktop application.

Some articles display the metrics once you open them on their source website. Yes, that's right. Every article opens a source web page, whether you tapped on view on web or download from the web. 

The articles open in the app (at least on an iPhone), but still, this isn't a convenient solution because I expected an auto download, at least for a download option.

So, basically, you'd be linked to the website and initiate the PDF download there, of course, if the article is free and has PDF button.
Once downloaded, you can read PDF documents. They would be displayed in-app with options to zoom, add annotations and highlights, or tap on inline citations, reference lists, and author names. PDFs look good even on smaller screens.

All PDFs you downloaded and read will be available in 'Recently Read' section of the Library. Library basically contains all articles you've added to the collection, no matter if you downloaded or read them.

I tapped on the star icon in a couple of articles to make them favorite, but they have never shown up in Favorites section, but they were visible in Library. My guess is that this is a bug.

Also, you can tag the articles, but this is also a Pro option. What bothers me is that the app doesn't specifically indicate how you obtain the Pro version of the app, except that you need to install desktop version.

For someone who doesn't use desktop much, but rather relies on mobile devices in daily workflow, this was a big put off. 

Basically, ReadCube mobile app is indeed just a 'crippled' companion to their desktop app. Users need to install it to use the app on their mobile devices, to add collections and libraries, and to use a full-featured app.

Honestly, this is not how you utilize mobile apps. Especially, not in 2017. So, I'm not sure that I could recommend ReadCube app that looks like an undercooked product to me. 

While it has its positive sides, particularly regarding collecting and managing PDF documents in an easy way, there are much better options that medical students, residents, and providers can use to manage their medical journal libraries and stay current with the medical literature and research.

Benefit: Medical students, residents, and providers can find this app useful if they don't mind using it as an addition to desktop app

Verdict:

For
  • Ability to quickly and easily search for medical articles and literature
  • Easily importing of existing PDF library
  • Built-in PDF reader with enhanced options
Against
  • Registration is required but outside the app
  • Institutional access is required even for free articles
  • Search for Google Scholar articles didn't work
  • It is not fully functional standalone mobile app, just a mobile addition to the desktop app

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