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Mendeley Open-source: Possible Revenue Streams

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If you’re reading this blog for the first time, you’d think that I’m Mendeley’s #1 fan. If you’re a long time reader (the five or six regulars), you might think I’m going crazy, or Mendeley has bought me (if so I haven’t received the cheque or wire transfer).

But, as I’m giving a whole business model to them, let’s just have it in a complete package. I mentioned why Mendeley open-sourcing its apps would make sense. But still they have people backing them up, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to hire everyone and their cousins. They also need to put food on their families plates, even though the backers might be millionaires.

It really makes sense for Mendeley to open-source and there’s an easy way for them to make money even being completely open. They have something no one has, with the exception maybe of Thomson-Reuters. They have a rich database, they have information, precious data. But stored data doesn’t make a profit. Stored data is there to be analysed, it needs to be crunched, checked, tabulated. Why not charge for it? You’re a journal publisher and want to check how many people are reading what, how’s the competition doing? Yep, you can check our db, and there’s a price to do that. You’re a company that wants to index your publications, metadata, etc? We provide the service and you pay a fee. You’re a grad student that wants to do some research? Hey, you have 100 free searches every day for free, if you pass over that number, you pay a penny for each extra search.

There are many other options of revenue. You can make deals with libraries and offer them database and distribution rights in order to mine their internal searches, etc. Each University will have its own rules, so that might be slow in the beginning, but if someone pays millions to have PeopleSoft installed, they can pay something to have the clever guys from Mendeley to take care of their library back-end (don’t mess with librarians).

I was criticized by Rod Page that by opening Mendeley’s source it would be pointless, but from the perspective of a comapny PR and community support that would be huge. Open what you can, profit from what no one has. Who knows if there’s some brilliant hacker that only with the API can make a better desktop client? Are you afraid of that Mendeley? Or you are afraid that your code is so messy that you are going to be criticized for it?

At this point we can only conjecture on what they are going to do, they want you to open your data, but they don’t want to give you something else back, something that won’t cost them much and at the same time will make them the champions of a community that is known to give things back.

They ask what side are you on, but they don’t tell where they are. At least not completely.