by Ryan Jones, Pubget
Researchers are turning to free search engines over licensed databases because of familiarity, simplicity and access to free content. By starting there, though, they face a fragmented experience across free and paid resources that’s fraught with dead ends, different formats and broken user interfaces. They also may pass up a perfect resource because it doesn’t crop up on the first page of the many results on Google. These shortcomings make up the Google Gap.
The Google Gap (or PubMed Gap or Science Direct Gap, etc) has been well explored by the library community. Technologies like link resolvers and federated search have cropped up to bridge the gap—with limited success. Link resolvers often mean errors in holdings (subscription collections), confusing resource choices and more dead ends. Meanwhile, federated search solutions connect resources at too high a level to provide a satisfactory experience and ignore holdings, the quality of metadata and the format, and usability of content.
So if link resolvers and federated search won’t do, what can bridge the gap between closed and web-based data? The “what” has to be something with enough computing power to provide a simple experience, yet span the web, free and paid content. It has to be something with a high understanding of all the content types that sit at the end of each search task. The answer, it turns out is not a website or database at all.
It’s an app.
Apps, as you’ve come to experience them on your phone or desktop, host more purpose-built code and processing power than traditional websites (as Chris Anderson wrote in this excellent piece in Wired ). Apps can provide enough intelligence to overcome content fragmentation among the user, the web, and library resources to deliver the simple yet powerful experience users ask for. They connect content destinations in highly customized ways, with intelligence, and can thereby standardize user experience across disparate resources. Apps can perform tasks in the background, fetching resources or content in anticipation of users’ needs. Apps can present a familiar and simple interface to the user.
This extra intelligence benefits the library, too. Apps can provide comprehensive data from both users and platforms, which in turn means better content management and more efficient libraries.
At Pubget, we think more intelligence is needed in the way users, the web, and resources are connected. As Chris Anderson says, “The World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services — think apps — are less about the searching and more about the getting.” At Pubget, we think there’s an app for that.