Mobile internet use is set to explode, according to a recent report from Morgan Stanley and any newspaper that you may have read recently, or indeed accessed via your mobile device. At some point in 2012, Morgan Stanley predicts, global internet use via mobile devices will eclipse that from computers and keep on accelerating. In India and China this is already happening, as mobile networks leapfrog the development of ‘traditional’ infrastructure. Most commentators also agree that recent festive seasons have been a bonanza for manufacturers. How many of you gave or received a mobile device recently, or know someone who did? Many of these will be in addition to the 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in use in 2010, compared to the mere 1.2 billion personal computers.

OK, this may be fascinating from the perspective of popular culture, business, or e-commerce. But how far does mobile internet use reach into academia? According to a report for the California Digital Libraries (CDL) in August 2010, most academics and researchers are using laptops. These are well suited to academic work and for accessing resources purchased by libraries. As prolific users of the pdf, academics particularly value the larger screens of laptops and PCs. The snapshot from California concludes that mobile internet use in academia is gathering strength, but not yet ready to breach the walls. This would seem a reasonable position, if it were not for the nagging suspicion that if the mobile internet is moving as fast as many say, then the CDL report could already be out of date.

Here at Cambridge Journals, we anticipate an increase in the use of mobile devices in universities, albeit at a slower pace than in other areas of life. If academia seems less mobile-friendly than the wider world, it’s probably because it deals with larger amounts of text and data. However, if non-academic mobile use accelerates as fast as some predict, it would perhaps be unwise to underestimate its potential impact in the academic arena.

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