Two weeks ago I was down in Bournemouth at the UKSG conference – a great gathering of library and publishing people. As usual I took my running kit along and unusually I actually used them instead of just thinking about running. I usually enjoy running by the sea, with the sun and the sea breeze. I went out on the Monday morning, and it was perishing cold. There was too much breeze and not enough sun so I was well-wrapped up against that chilly easterly wind. There were a few other hardy souls running, mostly equally well-wrapped-up. One of these seemed to recognise me and I half-thought I recognised him but it was hard to tell.
Later that day I spotted someone I knew who worked for Elsevier and said “Hello”. He said – “Ah, so it was you out running this morning?” and I admitted it was. We chatted about the terrible wind, and this and that. He used to be our Elsevier rep, dealing with our annual subscription renewals, but he now has a more strategic role in the global sales team. I asked an innocent question about the rumours earlier this year that Elsevier were to buy up Mendeley. “That rumour seems to have died down – I wonder if it was just someone at Mendeley flying a kite? It seemed an odd idea to me.” He professed to having no inside knowledge, and said that decisions like that were taken higher up in the company.
Well. The conference first day went by quickly – there’s always plenty of interest at UKSG – and in the evening I met up with a conference buddy for a few beers, getting back to my hotel fairly late. I checked my email just after midnight and I found one message titled “Team Mendeley Joins Elsevier”.
The next morning, I couldn’t be sure whether I had dreamed that news or it had really happened. Was it a beer-induced nightmare? I looked again and found a twitter-storm to confirm that it had really happened.
Back at the conference I saw my Elsevier contact again and he apologised that he hadn’t been able to be completely truthful with me – the deal was just in the process of being signed on Monday and he was sworn to secrecy until it was officially announced. I did quiz him a little about the implications for Mendeley. I had seen that Victor Henning was to have a title like “Vice-President for Strategy” within Elsevier. My contact told me that the idea was not that Elsevier would change the culture of Mendeley, but that Mendeley would change the culture of Elsevier. I tried not to look too sceptical. I find it hard to believe that, but perhaps there is a real desire within Elsevier to change. We will have to wait and see.
Later in the day I chatted with other library colleagues about the implications of the sale. We agreed that perhaps it was not highly significant for the majority of Mendeley users. While Mendeley has been the poster boy for open access in some quarters, I think that many users adopt it because it is a useful tool to help with storing references and preparing bibliographies. They just want it to do a job for them, not for it to change the world. This will not change under the new owners.