November 1, 2008

EndNote Sends Thugs to Bust Inkwells

by Nick Montfort · , 6:56 am

Thomson Reuters, which vends EndNote, has leveled a $10 million lawsuit at the makers of open-source citation management software Zotero, alleging that the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University violated a license agreement by making their software interoperable. This dispute has some interesting nuances, as MacKenzie Smith describes:

An interesting twist to the case is that Thomson had previously encouraged EndNote users (primarily scholars) to create their own citation format style sheets for use in the software, and to share them with each other via donation back to Thomson or by posting on public web sites. But now Thomson is enforcing sole ownership of those style sheets regardless of who created them or where they’re located. In other words, unbeknownst to them EndNote users have been creating and sharing proprietary EndNote style sheets for years, but only at Thomson Reuters’ discretion …

Even the ivory tower isn’t free from rot. I wonder if EndNote users will be prompted to switch by this move, or if practicality and familiarity will outweigh any more remote questions?

2 Responses to “EndNote Sends Thugs to Bust Inkwells”

  1. Ian Bogost Says:

    Functionally, EndNote has never been a very good program, for a lot of reasons. It integrates easily only with Word, for example, but moreso it is awkward and clumsy to use in every possible way. It’s better than BibTeX for those of us who don’t program our writing, but I was already moving away from it.

    Despite the misfortune of the lawsuit, I don’t know that Zotero is much more viable an option, from my perspective. As someone who works in a variety of places, including airplanes and cafes sans wifi, a web-based reference tool is not at all what I want. Unless I’m misunderstanding how it works.

  2. Mark Nelson Says:

    Ian: Although I’ve only used it a bit, Zotero works perfectly fine offline. It’s implemented in a Firefox plugin, but not inherently web based— that plugin stores all its information locally and can be used without an internet connection. The connection with the webbrowser seems to be mainly to allow it to slurp in references from webpages without having its own html-parsing (not to mention http) infrastructure, plus it gets to piggyback on Firefox’s XUL as a multiplatform GUI toolkit.

    My initial complaints (currently being addressed) were actually in the other direction, that it isn’t online enough. :) I use a number of different machines, so don’t want my bibliography manged entirely locally; fortunately, the in-development v1.5 lets you sync your bibliography data between machines via the server, and further lets you sync files attached to the bibliographies (like PDFs) via your own WebDAV space, if you have any.

    I do find it clunky to actually manage references with, though. The browsing in particular is terrible; without going into an advanced search pane, I can’t just do things like click on an author’s name to get a list of all papers in my DB from that author.

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