About a week and a half ago, Gluejar opened up their Unglue.it service, whose purpose is to coordinate crowdfunding in order to pay authors and publishers to release a published book as a digital edition under a Creative Commons license. It works as a mechanism to encourage copyright holders to make their work more widely available while providing a good incentive for them to do so (namely, people interested and money to do it). In a publisher and author landscape that is looking for other eBooks models, Unglue.it fills a much needed niche where people can put their money where their interests are and rights holders are given another option on the menu.
With the advent of crowdfunding sites like Kickstartr and Kiva, Unglue.it takes this concept and puts it to work in a way that is beneficial to publishers, authors, libraries, and readers. As a Creative Commons work, libraries can acquire, distribute, and curate these Unglued eBooks without the current bevy of terms and limitations offered by other companies. To me, this is why Unglue.it is important; it provides a method and a means for authors to get paid for their works while expanding their audience and retaining other important creator rights. In terms of eBooks and library vendors, there isn’t anything else like it out there.
With that in mind, now comes the moment of truth: will it work? In considering the other current options, I’m really hoping it does. People have shown their willingness to pay for things they believe in (Kickstartr being a great example) and eBooks are ripe for the same treatment. The hard part (as I’m told in any business) is getting that first success. While there are only five campaigns going (as of the posting time), it’s these five campaigns that need to show authors and publishers that this is a viable eBook option for their work. And one, most notably, that skips Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble and the eBook unsteady eBook giants they have evolved into. Getting to the first success needs to happen in order to entice more authors to consider doing the same with their current or backlist of works. It’s not so much a “now or never” moment for eBooks and making them easily to find and access, but it does move the needle in that direction if Unglue.it can get people to fund these books “now”.
Unglue.it will be a site to watch over the next year and one to invest in as campaigns for titles come up. Like Kickstartr, any pledges are not deducted until the campaign is over. Even then, the author or publisher can lower the asking price at any time; even a scary asking price shouldn’t be a barrier to pledging. At a minimum pledge ($1), you get a eBook copy if its successful. Not a bad deal overall, even with an air of gambling thrown in to boot.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the site evolves, how people discover and act on the campaigns, and what the future holds. It could make the eBook issue a little less sticky.
[Disclaimer: I’m a friend of Andromeda Yelton, one of the Unglue.it team members. I’ve also hung out a couple of times at conferences with Eric Hellman, President of Gluejar. I think they are both great library advocates and I really hoping for their personal success when it comes to Unglue.it.]