There are some rumours floating around that Elsevier is in advanced talks to buy Mendeley. Mendeley, as most of you will know, is one of the new reference management softwares that includes social media elements, particularly through its online portal. A Wired article from 2011 provides a decent overview of its development, scope and potential. In the meantime, Mendeley has only grown, and now alongside ResearchGate and Zotero – the former focusing more on collaborative tools, the latter although including social elements a more classical reference and citation software – represents the exciting edge of what is happening in this field. 

We are exploring the different tools in the Hybrid Publishing Lab at the moment (see Helge’s recent post, but as this commentary (via ScholarlyKitchen) points out, if the rumours turn out to be true, this changes a few things in the referencing software market and also tells us a lot about where these tools are heading. For one, Zotero is already the only major open-source reference management software, and it might then quickly become the only one that is free to use. Mendeley would then become for Elsevier what Endnotes is for Thomson Reuters and Refworks is for Proquest – it may be sold as part of their journal bundles to libraries.

In addition, if Mendeley is sold it may also indicate that the business model it sought to develop – presumably, to figure out a way to valorize all the data that its users provide – has failed to become economically sustainable. And that might have repercussions not only for reference management software, but also for a number of other software ventures in the academy, although many of these – such as Zotero, Open Journal Systems and also Calibre – already rely on public or private funding as much as the open source community.

In the meantime, perhaps the most exciting developments in public infrastructures of science and research occur elsewhere, in less corporatized places, such as the recent HAIP Festival, where some of our colleagues contributed.

Update: Confirmed: Elsevier has bought Mendeley for $69M-$100M

Armin Beverungen


Armin Beverungen is Junior Professor for Organisation in Digital Cultures at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, and has held previous research and teaching positions at the University of the West of England, Leuphana University and the University of Siegen. His research takes place at the interstices of media and organization studies, and is currently focused on the phenomenon of algorithmic management. His most recent publications include Markets (with Jens Schröter/Phil Mirowski/Edward Nik-Khak, meson press and University of Minnesota Press) and an edited issue of Organization on the theme of “the organizational powers of digital media” (with Lisa Conrad/Timon Beyes).

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