Tuesday, October 11, 2011

DeepDyve - renting scientific articles

Deepdyve buttonBit late, but I stumbled across DeepDyve, which provides rental access to scientific papers for as little as $0.99. The pitch to publishers is:

Today, scholarly publisher sites receive over 2 billion visits per year from users who are unaffiliated with an institution yet convert less than 0.2% into a purchase or subscription. DeepDyve’s service is designed for these ‘unaffiliated users’ who need an easy and affordable access to authoritative information vital to their careers.

Renting a paper means you get to read it online, but you can't print or download it, and access is time limited (unless you purchase the article outright). You can also purchase monthly plans (think Spotify for papers).

It's an interesting model, and the interface looks nice. Here's a paper on Taxonomy and Diversity (http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1003602221172):

Leaving aside the issue of whether restricted access to the scientific literature is a good idea (even if it is relatively cheap) I'm curious about the business model and the long tail. One could imagine lots of people downloading a few high-visibility papers, and my sense (based on no actual data I should stress) is that DeepDyve's publishing partners are providing access to their first-tier journals.

Taxonomic literature is vast, but most individual papers will have few readers (describing a single new species is usually not big news, with obvious exceptions). But I wonder if in aggregate the potential taxonomic readership would be enough to make cheap access to that literature economic. Publishers such as Wiley, Taylor and Francis, and Springer have digitised some major taxonomic journals, how will they get a return on this? I suspect the a price tag of, say, €34.95 for an article on seabird lice (e.g., "Neue Zangenläuse (Mallophaga, Philopteridae) von procellariiformen und charadriiformen Wirten" http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00260996) will be too high for many people, but the chance to rent it for 24 hours for, say, $0.99, would be appealing. If this is the case, then maybe this would encourage publishers to digitise more of their back catalogue. It would be nice if everything is digitised and free, but I could live with digitised and cheap.