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An iTunes Model for Journal Articles

Startup Labtiva has launched a new service that is applying the iTunes sales model to articles in scientific journals, reports the Boston Globe.

The company is working with publishers and universities to create a system called ReadCube Access that will allow researchers to read articles from journals to which they do not subscribe. The library picks up the tab, paying $5 to $10 for a download and $3 to $6 for a 48-hour "rental."

Articles accessed through ReadCube cannot be printed or shared.

The first participants in the program are the University of Utah and Nature Publishing Group, whose parent company, Macmillan, invested $2 million in Labtiva two years ago.

Labtiva's founders say the pricing model will be appealing to university libraries that currently pay thousands of dollars for annual subscriptions to journals — many of which are only accessed a few times a year.

But even the program's first participant isn't entirely sold on the concept yet. Rick Anderson, interim dean of the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, tells the Globe that he likes the idea behind ReadCube Access, but is concerned that it will "work too well," ultimately driving costs higher than they would be with a site license.

The university is currently limiting ReadCube access to the chemistry department. "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," he says.

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