86efdc26-0e2a-4a94-91ee-ba2a834c6f6bFrom ad-supported fiction to free textbooks: Ars Technica has an article looking at Scitable, a venture of Nature Publishing Group that provides free life-science educational material on-line. Ars first covered the venture in 2009, and now looks at how far it has come. And one thing that Scitable does not have is advertising.

It does have sponsors, however, such as biotech and pharmaceutical companies that sponsor educational material often based on their own fields of research or manufacture. Further, a number of other publishers have started their own free on-line services. Many seem to be using them as “freemium” free services to promote the sale of their scientific journals.

One noteworthy feature has to do with Nature’s addition of mobile access to Scitable.

The big addition over the last year has been a mobile version of the site. Scitable made the strategic decision to focus on basic Web technologies rather than making a custom app for a smartphone. The reasoning behind this is that the people with the least access to this sort of material are students in the developing world, but those are the ones who are most likely to have Internet access via a very limited cell phone. The mobile site is designed so that content degrades gracefully if the hardware can’t support things like video and lots of high-resolution images.

Free educational material of this nature has the potential to be useful to a lot of people, in the free and developing world. It’s good to see that level of thought being put into it.


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