Papers versus Mendeley: the mobile wars

One of the goals of this blog is to keep you posted with my experiences about Mac in research.

A series of posts regarding bibliographic management have been very read and commented. I am still a big Papers user. I am still believe that Papers for Mac is way better than Mendeley, although I respect so much Mendeley because of its integration with web (and saving papers and reading them everywhere) and the online community and sharing capabilities (and, obviously, because it’s free).

However, the future is here, and mobile devices are staying for long. The launch of iPad opened a new battlefield: which software would come to colonize iPad’s bibliographic management?

And then, finally, I manage to have an iPad. I truly believe that the iPad can be useful for research. We need more time so the apps improve their evident flaws (for example, no error bars in Numbers?). But Papers and Mendeley were right there, ready for one more battle.

The battle seemed unfair from the beginning. Papers allows you to sync pdf files even via WiFi. In Mendeley, you have to upload your pdf files to your online account (time…), and then, back into the iPad, download the papers in Mendeley (more time…). Papers allows you to make annotations and highlighting. Nothing in Mendeley. Again, Papers seemed the winner again, but…

Having paid for the Mac version, I would expect a more affordable iPad version for Papers’s current users. I don’t know if the App Store allows to make such a discount; nonetheless, having paid for the iPad, the case, the iWork suite, and some other necessary stuff, paying for Papers in iPad for now is out of options.

So, I started to use Mendeley (despite that I hate Mendeley… in my iPod touch, Mendeley crashes often). But I am getting used to upload papers in my online account and then downloading them into iPad’s Mendeley. I can’t make annotations, I can’t search in search engines like in Papers but… when some folks have been working hard to keep an App free of charge, and when, in the other side, some folks decide to charge (reasonable, of course) for the iPad version even to current users from the desktop application, well… I remember when I lost my cell phone once. I went to the company’s office, thinking that I should pay for a new cell phone, and then the girl from the company told me that the phone was free of charge, because “to our company, our customers are important and we want to keep you with us for many years”. Scientists don’t make lots of money. In fact, US$15 here in my country are almost 5 times more expensive, if we consider the GDP per capita. I will end sooner or later buying the Papers for iPad, and maybe I will update this post. Until then, I think that, for now, Mendeley won the mobile war because, at the end, if you own an iPad, you will spend lots of money in many apps, cases, keyboards, and stuff, and every cent will count, specially in smaller (poor) countries.


1 Response to “Papers versus Mendeley: the mobile wars”

  1. 1 Carl Edlund Anderson April 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Papers does have some significant advantages over Mendeley, both on the desktop and on the iPad. However, Papers also has some limitations — the most significant being the very prosaic issues of platform and price.

    I love my Mac, and have been a Mac-user ever since I switched from a DOS machine to a MacOS 7 machine as an undergraduate. Unfortunately, my university employer is not a Mac shop, and at work a Windows 7 machine crouches on my desk. So I can run Papers at home, but not at work. Bad news. And, of course, Mendeley (for all the obvious improvements that it still needs), is free. My university employer is very unlikely to buy me Papers (especially given that it only runs on Macs, which my university uses few of!) and the cost of Papers — particularly on an academic salary in the developing world, such as a have — would be tough to justify even if I did have a Mac at work.

    And on that note, there is a potentially large user base waiting in the developing world as more universities get online, more universities start pushing for research results from their faculty, and more students who grew up with online communication (Internet access not infrequently spreading very rapidly in the developing world) start getting involved. Developed-world software prices will, however, inevitably push them towards open source. It is easier to live with some limitations, but still reap the basic productivity gains, than pay money you don’t have for a more elegant product.

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