Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No Nerdvana: Mobile Devices and Remote Access to eJournal Subscriptions 101

As the academic year to kicks in I'm getting queries referred to me about accessing particular eJournals via remote handheld devices (maybe iPads were the xmas present of choice for lecturers and researchers?).

I just wanted to outline how these work as part of my strategy to help our staff at service points who get these queries.

First up it's not rocket science - but it's not consistent across publishing platforms. I see three basic models of how publishers have approached this (but it's still early days in my learning curve).

Note: in case you didn't know I've been manually maintaining a list of publishers who provide access to some sort of mobile interface. where I either point to the mobile version of the service or the instructions for access the mobile version.
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Model 1: Mobile Web Interface

Publisher provides the ejournal through a web site designed for small screens.  In these cases as long as the link to the publisher was through EZproxy all should be fine (remember any link they can find in our web presence to a resource will authenticate them through EZproxy, including: the catalogue, the link resolver, the ejournal portal, libguides, the A-Z of databases), so as long as they haven't googled to find the site there shouldn't be any problems.

Best thing about these is the platform isn't a barrier (although the browser might be).

Model 2: Publisher-specific Account

User has to create an account with the publisher - and that account has to be created from the JCU network so that the publisher can ensure the user is entitled to access our subscribed material. Once the user clicks on the link in the resulting confirmation email their account is 'approved' for off campus access.

Some publishers require the email account to have the same domain as the subscribing organisation. It is probably a logical idea in any case for clients to use their JCU emails.

The user downloads an app and uses the approved account (they are prompted for the details of the account they registered).

Account creation is usually very simple (just an email address and password).  I feel silly saying it but for obvious security reasons always advise clients not to use their 'real' JCU password. This can be a stumbling point though, as our clients often use an email/password dialog to connect to other services (email and eduroam for example).

Because you have to register your username from within the JCU network off campus clients can stumble at the registration point - if you know the registration page address you can use the elibrary tool to create an ezproxied address to it - which should overcome that hurdle for off campus users.  Where we might have problems is if the registration page has a different domain to the publisher and has not been set up for EZproxy access.

Model 3: Device pairing

I've seen this a couple of times.  Basically you have to install the app from the appstore, within the JCU network. The app itself stores a magic cookie that lets the publisher site know you have the right to access JCU Library subscribed material. The cookie expires over time and is renewed by using the app from within the JCU network.

I can't see a way of forcing app store access through EZproxy if all you have is a mobile device. So the device would physically have to be on campus (although I wonder if accessing eduroam at another site might be sufficient). 

If the user is tech enough you could suggest that they set up the JCU VPN on their desktop computer and share that internet connection with the handheld device - but it's not something I've tried, just a thought.


It's a selling point of Browzine I hadn't really considered - because it uses EZproxy it overcomes the off campus issues of the publisher platforms it accesses - and couples it with a single interface across multiple publishers (provided Third Iron have had permission and time develop a connection)

Summary of Common Problems

Q: App not available for user's platform
A: Try web site access

Q: Won't accept my password
A: Won't accept which password and where, i.e. if web site - are they using EZproxied link? If app have they created a publisher account? If yes, are they using the password for the account they created? Does the app require in network pairing?

Q: I never come on campus, I'm in another country, I need it now and I'm at the airport
A: There are workarounds for on campus registration for off campus users, described above

My two main tools for diagnosis (so far) are reading the publisher's instructions, and following them on a similar device.

As always, if you get stuck, ask me. I think we need to deal with any issues in this space quickly and professionally - small screen access is the next wave to crash on us so let's wax our boards.

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