PubMed Central continues its efforts to impose a uniform repository experience on published content deposited there.
One of the most obvious attempts to put the repository version ahead of the publisher version has been PMC’s search results interface, which provides a link to the PMC version of content within the list, but suppresses the publisher’s version into the actual abstract view. This has resulted in more usage of the PMC version and less usage of publisher’s versions, resulting in a repository experience for more users rather than a multi-publisher experience. PMC is trying to build the PMC brand to obscure the brands of publishers depositing content into PMC.
In late December, the team at the NCBI, which runs PMC, rolled out a “PubReader” view of deposited content, a view that while technically respectable, effectively strips the publisher’s brand from the content, leaving it only in the most token way possible — as a one-time, vanilla statement of fact, which has no visual resonance or brand power.
Because PMC wants to push its brand, the NCBI even created a snazzy page touting PubReader.
While their marketing of PubReader uses all sorts of glitz, their presentation of journal content goes the other direction, removing branding elements from published content and replacing these with a homogenous PMC experience. Here are four examples from completely different journals:
- From the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery
- From the Journal of Clinical Investigation
- From Pediatrics
- From PLoS Pathogens
In each case, the name of the journal is presented on a field of stylized clouds — a visual metaphor for coming from the cloud, of ascending to heaven, or of coming from heaven like manna? No color, font, design, or brand elements from the source material exists. The flare of JCI is gone. The red of JBJS is gone. The green of Pediatrics is gone. The blue of PLoS Pathogens is gone. It’s all transmuted into the PMC cloud and branding.
Readers depend on branding so that they can know the source and provenance of content. Sources are not equivalent. They are not substitutable. Brand promises vary. Readers have fairly sophisticated knowledge of the brands in their fields. But readers also include journalists and the public in the case of PMC, people who often do not have a sophisticated awareness of journal branding. It is tripping journalists up. It is also confusing across the board, conferring equivalency where there is none.
I was not aware PMC was rolling out a new content presentation format for my journal’s deposits. How many publishers were? I’m guessing awareness of PubReader is low. PMC seems to have no sense of responsibility to the publishers they work with, treating our content as a commodity they can use however they see fit, even to our detriment.
PubReader is just another example of how PMC is putting its brand ahead of the brands of the publishers who deposit content there. The competition with publishers continues.