Well, it finally happened…Mendeley has been acquired by Elsevier. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Mendeley has never been open source (“free” does not equal “open source”), they’ve always been a commercial company and have never suggested that they were anything else. This day was always coming.
I’ll be honest, my immediate reaction was to wonder if I could simply import my data into Zotero and delete my Mendeley account. However, after a few moments I reconsidered that knee jerk reaction and decided to stick it out and see what happens. You see, I don’t use Mendeley because I have some kind of deep seated principles regarding openness in academic publication (I do, but that’s not why I use Mendeley). I use it because it does a great job of helping make my life easier.
I use open source software whenever I can but I also use MS Office when I’m at work, especially for documents with complex formatting. I don’t avoid using Office because it’s owned by Microsoft. I use what works for me and in most cases, open source software Is. Just. Better. In cases where it isn’t, I also use proprietary programmes. Regardless, I always use the tools that help me do my job. For me, Mendeley is just another tool that helps me do my job…only now it has a new owner.
Let me be clear, I’m not a fan of Elsevier and dislike some of the choices they’ve made in the past. However, there’s no reason to think (yet) that anything at Mendeley will change. If anything, the announcement on their blog makes it seem like this investment in the company will spur innovation and allow them to continue growing their offerings. I’m not mesmerised by the extra 1GB of storage space, which comes off as a cheap trick to try and draw attention away from the elephant in the room. I’m more interested in their continued development of their open API, and changes to the software. In particular, if this move allows them to create a usable iPad app, then for that reason alone I’d support it.
Also, according to this blog post from the company, there will always be a free version of Mendeley, there will be no discernible difference in how Mendeley works for the end user, my data is still mine, and it seems as if there will be no attempt to favour Elsevier publications when using Mendeley. Whether you believe this or not is irrelevant because as soon as any of this is no longer true, export your data, stop using the service and move to Zotero.
And even if they do make changes that affect how you use the service, consider the following: