deepdyve logoA company called DeepDyve has already unveiled a search engine that it says beats Google’s for finding research information. But its plans go beyond search — chief executive Bill Park says the company also wants to reach a new audience for academic research, today launching what he calls “an iTunes or Netflix for research.”

The business model for a scientific, medical, or technical journal is all about selling to a big academic institution, like Harvard or Stanford, Park said. That means they’re missing a huge potential audience, the country’s 50 million “knowledge workers,” a large portion of whom need to read a few technical articles every week as part of their job, or to stay on top of their field. But these technical websites charge around $30 for a single article and don’t provide anything more than a short abstract before you make a decision, so most of these readers either give up or ask someone they know with a subscription for a copy.

As evidence that this is happening, Park says only 0.2. percent of visitors to these journal websites actually make a purchase, which is a pretty dismal conversion rate.

With DeepDyve’s rental service, on the other hand, you can use DeepDyve search (whose main strength is searching for entire phrases or large chunks of text) to find and preview the article you want, then you get access to it for a limited period of time. Pricing starts at 99 cents per article, which lets you read the article for 24 hours, and goes up to a “gold plan” of $19.99 per month, which lets you read unlimited articles for an unlimited period of time.

The Menlo Park, Calif. company has already made deals with many academic publishers, leading to a database of 30 million articles at launch. The publishers realize the rental service expands, rather than competes with, their business model, Park says.

DeepDyve has raised $9 million from angel investors, and is looking to raise $5 million in its first institutional funding round.