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Share It, Read It, But No Printing

Subscribers and certain media outlets will be able to share read-only copies of Nature journal articles, the journal's publisher Macmillan Science and Education announced yesterday. Articles from 48 other Nature Publishing Group journals including Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine, and Nature Physics, are also covered under this content-sharing policy, Nature News adds.

"We know researchers are already sharing content, often in hidden corners of the Internet or using clumsy, time-consuming practices," said Timo Hannay, the managing director of Digital Science, in a statement.

Under this initiative, subscribers will be able to share articles using ReadCube, which Nature News likens to Apple's iTunes, and recipients will be able to read and annotate those papers, though not print them, in the ReadCube desktop program.

This, the Guardian says, enables Macmillan to retain some control over papers and how they are shared, something they lose when researchers email each other PDF files they've downloaded. Macmillan, through its Digital Science division, it adds, has a financial stake in ReadCube.

Some critics say this may actually give the publisher more control.

"What concerns me about the program is the move toward proprietary formats and greater control of content, through the platform ReadCube," writes Bonnie Swoger at the Information Culture blog at Scientific American, which is owned by NPG. "While the current access system is imperfect (really imperfect), the PDF format allows users to easily share information, access their articles from anywhere, and print articles for easy reading." ReadCube, she adds, is more restrictive, and off-line access may disappear, making it harder to use the articles.

Still, Peter Suber, director of the Harvard University Office for Scholarly Communication, tells the Chronicle of Higher Education that this is a "bold move."

At Nature News, Annette Thomas, the chief executive of Macmillan Science and Education, says the policy is a pilot project and that it will be evaluated during the coming year.