KinSync – Getting documents from Mendeley to your Kindle with no wires and no fuss

KinSync logo

Q&A with Aaron Asaro, KinSync Founder 

So, in a nutshell, what is KinSync?

KinSync is a webapp, built on top of the Mendeley API, which automatically sends documents from your Mendeley account to your Kindle e-reader. It aims to “Get documents from your Mendeley account to your Kindle. No wires. No fuss.”

How was the app developed?

At first we wanted KinSync to completely do away with the need to print an academic paper. To achieve this, we sent PDFs to a users’ Kindle e-reader. Once we had that mechanism working, we sought to find efficient ways to annotate and highlight the documents with the Kindle. The trouble is that they’re not designed for ‘active’ reading, so we couldn’t find a good way to make that work. The first live version was therefore a bit limited.

What was the initial user reaction like?

Users seemed to like the idea at first, but stopped using it after a while because the use case we were pushing (a total replacement of printed documents) didn’t gel with their experience. This was additionally problematic as our approach to marketing has always been to build a great product and rely on people telling their friends / colleagues.

What changed, and how are users using the product now?

After about 12 months we pivoted to a free product with a set of features that more closely matched our own behavior – using KinSync to catch up on recent literature. For example, instead of printing out 20 or 30 papers each week to skim read, our users now send the papers to their Kindle. If the papers prove interesting or valuable they are then printed for more active reading (i.e. attacked with highlighters and pencil).

One feature that has helped us to attract users is “document optimization”. To begin with, PDFs were quite cumbersome to read for anyone that didn’t have a Kindle DX. However, we implemented some pretty nifty technology that breaks these documents down into the columnar components – making them a lot easier to read (as shown below).

 

Kinsync screenshot

 

What was it like working with the Mendeley API?

The API hasn’t always been the easiest to work with, particularly from a documentation standpoint. However, where this fell short the community support from the Mendeley Dev team more than made up for it. A while ago we were a little concerned that, following the Elsevier takeover, the API would be depreciated. However, we have been pleasantly surprised that Elsevier/Mendeley have instead deployed even more resources – and over time the API seems to have become more robust.

What does the future hold for KinSync?

Ever more people are getting Kindles and Amazon are doing great things to bring the technology forward and prices down. We are hoping Amazon will open up the Kindles a little more so that we can deploy some of the features that have been on ice for way too long. Until then, we will continue to experiment with different ways of best delivering this service.

Mendeley API Version 1 is Out!

Mendeley Dev Portal 1

 

It has been a long 12-month journey, and the path wasn’t always lined with rose petals and unicorns, but last week we did allow ourselves a small celebration as version 1 of the Mendeley API was released.

API Celebrations

The API team designed this from the ground up, working alongside other Mendeley and Elsevier teams as well as key external partners, who all helped to test it out and provided crucial feedback to bring it into shape.

Mendeley users have already seen some of the results of this work, with better, seamless integration with Scopus and Science Direct in features such as the Web Importer and Readership Stats. This is something that Elsevier is really supportive of, as it provides an open platform to improve and optimise the research workflow at every step. The API is a key piece of that puzzle and we’re excited to see the new innovative applications it will lead to. If you’re a developer, be sure to check out the Mendeley Dev Portal and give the new API a whirl!

You can read more about this in our dedicated Mendeley Dev blog, and about API’s in general in this Huffington Post Article. As always, don’t be shy of letting us know what you think in the comments, Twitter or just email api@mendeley.com

New Android Kit Released for Mendeley API

Android SDK

We have been very busy at Mendeley looking at how to improve the Developer Experience for the community that builds cool stuff on the Mendeley API.

For those who don’t know, API stands for Application Programming Interface and it’s what allows your product to talk to other products, opening up your data and functionality to outside developers.

Altmetric

So far we have well over 100 active clients developing with the Mendeley API, which is not too shabby. These include Android and Kindle clients like Scholarley and KinSync, Altmetric, which tracks what people are saying about papers online, and Labfolder, an app that helps researchers organise their protocols and data.

Labfolder

We want developers to make A LOT more apps for Mendeley though, so we listened to feedback and put together a new and much improved API and sleek Developer Portal, where we’re now collating a whole bunch of tools and resources to support our developer community.

Dev Portal

We also have a growing API Team at Mendeley including Joyce Stack, who’s dedicated to Developer Outreach. If you’re wondering what exactly that is, here’s some first-hand insight on what her job is like. Just don’t call her an Evangelist, she hates that…

The latest step in this journey was to release an SDK (That’s Software Development Kit to you and me) to make things simpler for Android developers wanting to work with Mendeley. An early public access version is now available on GitHub which provides model objects and packages and takes care of authentication.

We’ll of course be looking to improve the API  because, as any good geek knows, no code is ever finished and we know there’s a long way to go! With that in mind please send us your feedback. You can email api@mendeley.com and reach out to @mendeleyAPI on Twitter.

For  all the latest news on the API and Developer Tools, also be sure to follow the Mendeley API Blog

Mendeley users can now use CatchApp to track their updates on the go

 

Catchapp 2

You probably know that Mendeley has an open API that lets 3rd party developers build apps that work with the platform (we have over 300 of them so far!) to offer our users even more useful tools and services.

One such app is a push notification service called CatchApp, which lets you keep track of all your updates – including Mendeley – in one feed. If you’re tempted to try it, Mendeley users can get a larger update quota at a discount. All you need to do is enter the code “mendeley” after signing up.

Here are some more details from the CatchApp developers, and if you have any questions, comments or suggestions about the app feel free to leave a comment or tweet them @getcatchapp

Working in a research group can be a hassle sometimes. Collecting information, organizing references and writing papers is a highly collaborative task. Especially when it comes to remote collaboration, transparency about who’s doing what in the project is key. That’s what CatchApp is all about. It’s the easiest way to catch up with everything your team is working on.

Mendeley has recently been added to CatchApp’s collection of integrated apps. It brings you one feed where you can follow updates in your connected apps. Whether it’s new references in shared Mendeley groups or updates on your recent paperwork in Google Drive or Dropbox, CatchApp sends push notifications to your iOS device, keeping you informed on the go.

This is the type of information that CatchApp shows you with each Mendeley update:

 

 

Catchapp1

Integrated apps

Supported apps include Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Evernote, Box, Trello, Basecamp, Podio, Pivotal Tracker, GitHub, Bitbucket, Zendesk, Highrise, Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, SkyDrive, Mendeley, Lighthouse, Twitter, and RSS feeds.