November 30, 2015

DeepDyve: The First Five’s Free

DeepDyve, an article rental company, today introduced an additional “freemium” service, in which any user who signs up with an email and password can read over eight million scholarly articles, which are normally found behind a paywall, for free for five minutes.

In addition to those articles from 100 publishers (including Wiley, Springer, Elsevier, Nature, IEEE, and a variety of university presses) and 3,000 journals, DeepDyve has also integrated access to some 10 million open access articles from the likes of PLOS and PubMed Central.

The company’s target market is unaffiliated users, who no longer have access to academic library resources. Its rental model allows users to sign up for a monthly plan or project access, which enables them to rent browser-based articles for 30 days to one year, depending on the plan they choose. (They can’t copy or print unless they choose to buy the article.) CEO William Park characterized it as “a Spotify for research” (though Barbara Fister compared it to Netflix in 2009). Said Park, “We started out with [a] let you rent to see if you want to buy [model], now you can preview the article for free before you decide if you really want to rent it.”

Though the service initially targeted individuals, as it gained traction, Park told LJ the company began getting contacted by institutions and now offers group plans as well. For small start-ups, DeepDyve offers a volume discount on monthly subscriptions; for larger institutions that want to aggregate the users, DeepDyve offers IP-based plans for a modest set-up fee.

While DeepDyve is of particular interest to corporate special librarians, Park told LJ that the company is also seeing interest from smaller universities. “They obviously don’t invest in Big Deals,” he said. “We think we can support this market, but for us, right now, it is really exploratory.” As such, the company doesn’t yet offer patron-driven acquisition tools which would trigger purchases when enough library users rent an article.

DeepDyve, Parks says, is also hoping the freemium model will enable social sharing among scientists. “On a per article basis scientific articles are the most commonly shared article of all the types. However they’re the lowest clicked on articles by the people they’re shared to,” he said, speculating that perhaps paywalls explain the discrepancy.

The company also offers a plugin of potential interest to libraries: when a user searches on Google Scholar or PubMedCentral, a link will show up if DeepDyve holds the content. Said Park, “Where I see this being beneficial to libraries and large institutions is, even if they don’t have an account with DeepDyve, it’s a way for their patrons to sample an article before they use up the resources for PDA or interlibrary loan or whatever it might be. One of the big concerns we hear is, if we don’t have a subscription, incremental access is darned expensive, and one in three or four articles wasn’t what they thought it would be based on the abstract. They feel they’ve burned some limited resources.”


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Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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