Monday, October 08, 2012

ReadCube offers New Per-Article Access for Expensive Journals

There is an article in the business section of today's Boston Globe about a new start up called Labtiva, and the product is ReadCube Access. Started by two graduate students at Harvard, the service currently provides access to the Nature journal suite of titles. So far, University of Utah is the only partner, but they are rolling it out in the chemistry department this fall to test it.

There is some concern among the administrators at Utah, according to the article, about the pricing of the program and how it may eat up library budgets. The arrangement is like ITunes, in that DRM will allow the individual subscriber only to access the individual article. The article cannot be printed and cannot be shared with others. Articles can be accessed on a limited time basis for $6 or less (depending on the journal), or purchased for $11 or less, depending on the journal. Rick Anderson, interim dean of University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library is quoted,

Our journal collection is very, very lean, ... If we opened something like this up across the campus, you’d be taking a very big risk that your entire materials budget would get blown out in a month, ...
Anderson goes on to analyze a potential danger, not only to university budgets, but to the publishing industry in the model. He also compares the model to ITunes, and draws a parallel to the music industry's experiments with music delivery and DRM. Currently, libraries must purchase an entire journal's worth of articles to obtain the single article that is exciting the research community. That will change with the ReadCube Access model, which would address that market inefficiency. But it would drastically change the financial picture for publishers, who will face the same market upheaval currently shaking the music industry.

There is also a brief mention of the Open Access movement, though it is dismissed as a fringe movement. (Directory of Open Access Journals)

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