Skip all navigation and go to page content
NN/LM Home About PNR | Contact PNR | Feedback | Help | Bookmark and Share

Going Retro with RSS

disco balls image by B-Tal of flickr

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) makes it possible to pick up dynamic content on the web and move it to a place that makes sense for you. In a previous post, I described how to use an RSS feed reader to track updates to blogs and websites. Feed readers are just one way to use RSS feeds. RSS can also help with such “retro” tasks as assembling print newsletters, setting up e-mail alerts, and making phone calls. Intrigued? Read on.

Tabbloid and FeedJournal are two free services that generate printable PDF newsletters from RSS feeds or lists of feeds. You might use an RSS to PDF service to create a print alternative for your organization’s blog, or to produce highly individualized newspapers for the physicians, researchers, and others who frequent your library.

Here is a nice comparison of the features of Tabbloid and FeedJournal.

Here are the most recent Dragonfly posts as a Tabbloid and as a FeedJournal.

RSS to e-mail
So you’ve set up an account with Google Reader or Bloglines. You’ve subscribed to Dragonfly, PubMed New & Noteworthy, the Krafty Librarian, and a few Tables of Contents, but you have trouble remembering to check your feeds. You hear yourself saying things like “it just doesn’t fit into my workflow!” Good news! If e-mail is your preference, you can take those same RSS feeds and set up e-mail alerts for yourself. Feed My Inbox is a free service that works well for this purpose. Enter the URL for a blog or news source, enter your e-mail address, and updates will be sent to your inbox no more than once every 24 hours.

Our friends at Samaritan Health Services in Oregon used RSS feeds to create MedGrab, a one-stop shop for-mail alerts to medical journal tables of contents. MedGrab is primarily intended for use by SHS staff, but anyone can use MedGrab to sign up for e-mail alerts for the listed journals.

For details of how MedGrab came to be and how you can create a similar service for your library, see “How to Create a Simple Online Electronic Table of Contents Delivery Service: Medgrab as a Case Study,” an article by Dorothy O’Brien, Roger Davis, and Hope Leman, published last year in Volume 8, Issue 1, pages 38-52 of the Journal of Hospital Librarianship.

Podcasts to your phone

Podlinez takes the RSS feed for a podcast and assigns a phone number to it. This makes it possible to listen to podcasts away from your computer even if you do not own an mp3 player. This is a good way to pass the time when you find yourself unexpectedly waiting somewhere. It is also a great way to use those extra cell phone minutes!

Yesterday, I used Podlinez to generate a phone number for the NIH Research Radio podcast. Listen on your phone by calling the number below.

To find other podcasts with phone numbers, or to create your own podcast over the phone, go to

6 Responses to “Going Retro with RSS”

  1. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, Alison. Wow—really useful post! I just tweeted it. Interesting about RSS to PDF and podcasts to your phone. There are so many ways to covert this or that form of content to this or that medium. Talk about having it your way.

    The RSS to PDF tools sound especially useful for multifaceted outreach efforts.

    And if you have no friends, you can at least get phone calls of podcasts on your phone—ho ho.

    I use Feed My Inbox—it works like a dream. Great way to keep up on useful blogs.

  2. Roddy MacLeod Says:

    Hi Dragonfly,

    An alternative to having to get to grips with RSS, for journal tables of contents feeds, is ticTOCs. 12,000 TOCs from 436 publishers.


  3. Alison Aldrich Says:

    Thanks, Roddy, for chiming in about ticTOCs. It is a very impressive project! I like that ticTOCSs creates a simple link to a particular table of contents, AND that citations can be exported to RefWorks. That’s a very nice feature. How does it work with Zotero and EndNote?

  4. Manuel Says:

    The podlinez service looks very promising. There is also a service ( that converts rss to speech. It should be possible to uses that together with podlinez.

  5. Roddy MacLeod Says:


    Thanks for your comments. ticTOCs doesn’t yet work with bib-management software apart from RefWorks. We’re hoping to add EndNote and a freely available one.


  6. Alisha Miles Says:

    Thank you for this great post. I know I can probably use Tabbloid and FeedJournal to create some newsletters for the library. It is always great to find these types of tools that will save you time without costing you. The only problem is there are so many tools that it is hard to keep up! So I really appreciate you going over some of these new tools. If you know of a tool that will synch all social media (twitter, rss, friendfeed, blogs, etc.) in one, then let me know via twitter, Alisha764. I am interested in Google’s SocialStream (really just funded by Google, not owned by it, yet) but I have not seen anything else similar, and Google’s version isn’t out yet. So tweet me if you know of one that you really like, or any other web2.0 tool.

    TY ~ Alisha
    Follow me on twitter: Alisha764