As users became happier, publishers grew grumpier and investors less patient.
Which is one reason that discontented researchers loved Mendeley.
Simply by searching, finding, reading, and sharing papers on Mendeley, researchers could rebel both personally and politically: they could enjoy the frisson of obtaining a paywalled paper without paying for it.
And by unbundling the paper from the journal, as had let music fans unbundle songs from albums, they felt like they were kicking a brick out of the outmoded publishing infrastructure.
Hoyt, however, found that his efforts to strengthen this tool increasingly revealed its limits.
The preview feature allowed users to see the first few paragraphs of any paper listed by Mendeley’s members so they could decide if a paper looked useful before tracking it down in a user group or, if that failed, buying it for fifteen to fifty dollars.
Users loved the feature, but Elsevier hated it and pressured Mendeley to remove it.
Mendeley, founded in late 2008 by three tech-savvy scholars, had become a sort of rebel-scientist icon for producing a software-and-paper-sharing service that threatened to disrupt scholarly publishing in the way that Napster and had disrupted the music industry a few years earlier.
Elsevier, on the other hand, is infamous for restricting the flow of scientific information so it can sell research papers for as much as fifty dollars a piece, generating profit margins of thirty-six per cent and netting the company billions of dollars in revenue annually.
Now, even though the Internet provides a faster, freer, more flexible way to share, discuss, and archive scientific findings and ideas, the business infrastructure built around that print model still dominates and constrains the sharing of scientific information.
The research paper, created as a conduit for information, has become a bottleneck.