Last week I wrote (http://network.nature.com/blogs/user/mfenner/2007/09/09/could-you-write-your-next-paper-with-google-docs?) about web-based writing tools. I believe that these tools are almost there and someone has to put the pieces together to make them work for writing a scientific paper.
EJ Press System (https://web.archive.org/web/20120611101031/http://www.ejpress.com/ejpress.shtml?) by EJournal Press, Manuscript Central (https://web.archive.org/web/20120611101031/http://www.scholarone.com/products_manuscriptcentral_aboutMC.shtml?) by ScholarOne and Editiorial Manager (https://web.archive.org/web/20120611101031/http://www.editorialmanager.com/?) by Aries Systems are among the most popular web-based online submission systems. From a technical point of view, it would make a lot of sense if these submission systems are extended to also cover the paper writing process. The major advantage of web-based systems – in contrast to writing your paper in a traditional word processor such as Microsoft Word – is collaboration. And the actual paper submission becomes much easier both for the author and the publisher if the paper is already in the submission system. This could also streamline the peer-review process, as reviewers could (anonymously) write their comments directly into the online text.
An online paper writing tool could also make business sense. I believe that a large number of authors would consider such a system even with a fee of $25-50 per paper. This could generate enough revenue to cover the development and maintenance costs of such a system.