Macmillan have released an interesting press release, announcing that all research papers published in their 49 Nature Publishing Group (NPG) journals, including Nature, will be made free to read online, via one of Digital Science’s pet projects, ReadCube (note that Digital Science is also owned by Macmillan). These articles can be annotated in ReadCube, but not copied, printed, or downloaded.
This is not open access*, and NPG have been very careful and explicit about stating this.
What is the reason for this move, then, when we have a globally shifting environment towards open access? Well, academics love to break rules. We share papers freely, and often illegally, with our colleagues all the time. It’s a sort of passive rebellion against paywall-based publishers. A great example of this is #icanhazpdf on Twitter, whereby articles are requested, and then hopefully shared privately by someone else. This kind of activity is what NPG are calling ‘dark social’, like some terrible name for an evil media organisation. By this, they simply mean sharing, but out of their control. This new initiative seems to be a way of controlling, and legitimising this sort of ‘peer-to-peer’ practice.