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Judging from the general response, last week’s rumor of an Elsevier purchase of Mendeley didn’t really come as a surprise to most. Mendeley has long been an intriguing set of services in search of a business model. Should the sale go through, Mendeley’s path mirrors that of many startups from was once called « Web 2.0, » and provides a cautionary tale for those relying on free services and a vision of an open access (OA) future that may result in a reshuffling of economic resources.
Competing against « free » has been the greatest business challenge of the social Internet era. From one side of the equation, it has massively reduced the music industry and continues to push newspapers into nonexistence. People like getting things for free, and if someone offers essentially the same product as yours without charging, you can rapidly be replaced.
But it also creates problems from the…
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