RealTime IT News

The 'Netflix' of Tech Journals?

Users may be swimming in a sea of free content on the Web, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of high value, paid content online.

This includes scientific and technical journals that can charge as much as $30 to $40 per article for in-depth, peer-reviewed pieces and other specialized content. Subscriptions to this content can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars making it generally restricted to large academic institutions and corporations.

Enter specialized search engine DeepDyve with a unique rental plan.

Launching today, DeepDyve's new service offers both consumers and professionals the ability to rent articles for as little as $0.99 each, much like renting movies using Netflix. The company's database covers thousands of journals and some 30 million articles, many of which are available for free.

A paid article rental expires after 24 hours, though you can also sign up for a membership plan for $9.99 per month that pushes the article expiration out to seven days.

William Park, CEO of DeepDyve, said the new service is designed to appeal to the estimated 50 million knowledge workers in the U.S.

"According to IDC, these knowledge workers spend about 25 hours per month researching online, but many can't afford the expensive journals," Park told InternetNews.com.

Park said the market for this content is underserved because the publishers have mainly designed their Web sites for their traditional client base.

"But now they're finding about two-thirds of their visitors are from non-institutional users and other potential customers who want that content, but the publisher's aren't set up to serve them," Park said.

Not only is the content expensive, Park noted that "they are not designed as Web 2.0 sites and some of them offer a really cumbersome shopping experience."

DeepDyve's rental system offers read-only access to any of the articles in its system, but you can't print or save them. You can also view the first page of any article for free. You also have the option to buy and download any article at whatever the publisher charges.

At least one early DeepDyve partner agrees the service is a useful bridge to traditional offerings.

"The Web is transforming the publishing industry and creating opportunities for new users to access our content," Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, said in a statement. "The rental model that DeepDyve has pioneered enables us to serve these new users without compromising the products we offer to our traditional subscription customers."

Long queries welcome

DeepDyve was started by scientists in 2005 working on the human genome project and bills itself as "the research engine for the Deep Web." In their effort to simplify online research, they created a search engine designed to handle more sophisticated queries than mainstream engines like Google and Yahoo.

For example, while a Google search is limited to 32 words, DeepDyve can handle up to 25,000 characters including phrases up to 20 words long.

"With long queries, Google only finds articles that have all the words and phrases, so that will often take you back to the article it came from," Park said. "From a research perspective, all you've shown me is what I already knew, and that's fine for consumers looking for movie tickets. For research, you don't know what you want."

Park compares the current high-priced system of scientific and technical journals to the music industry before iTunes, when song downloads were either expensive or pirated.

"Basically, that high pricing encouraged people to pirate music before iTunes," he said. "We're making it easy for people to be honest."

DeepDyve launched under the name Infovell. In spring, the company added Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to its advisory board.