Eric Hellman, the driving force behind the Gluejar project, will make a soft launch of the project’s website at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Dallas this weekend.
The innovative project is an attempt to come up with a working business model that would create widespread, unencumbered access to ebooks, and bridge the differences between rights holders and readers (including library patrons).
This is how it would work in a nutshell:
The website is unglue.it. Anyone can go to the website and create a wish list of books they would like to see “unglued,” meaning be available via Creative Commons licensing and without any digital rights management (DRM).
“The strategy for rolling this out is to first build up a base of supporters,” Hellman said. “So, we need to give them something to do. We want them to pick things they would support,” he said.
Hellman and his small, virtual team will, in the meantime, be approaching various rights holders and asking them to agree to make their works available for a set, upfront fee that would replace future royalties.
Once a rights holder has agreed to make a work available and has set a price, then unglue.it launches a fund-raising campaign to which supporters of that work contribute (using PayPal). Similar to Kickstarter, if the funding goal is met then the rights holder is paid, the work is “unglued,” and made freely accessible to all. Gluejar will take a small commission.
“It takes some explaining, especially to book industry people,” said Hellman during a demonstration of the site at LJ’s office on January 13. “These people are experts in their industry, and they know everything, and we are presenting something they haven’t thought of before. They are uniformly skeptical,” he said.
Hellman and Amanda Mecke, an expert in literary rights management, have been meeting with literary agents to convince them to make works available where rights have reverted to the authors but have not been exercised or are languishing. They also are reaching out to university presses.
“I spent today meeting with literary agents, which is an interesting experience,” Hellman said. “We’re definitely pushing them out of their comfort zones, but I say ‘look at your royalty statements,’ ” he said.
The Internet Archive will be the first depository for the works, but the files can be deposited anywhere, even on a library’s own server where they can be integrated into the catalog.
“Features that cater to libraries we are in the process of baking in,” Hellman said. “For example, there will be the ability for a library to put in a big list and put money on the list rather than on a single title,” he said.
Gluejar will use the wish lists generated on the site to help guide which rights holders to approach. In addition, the hope is that if a rights holder were to see a large number of supporters hoping to unglue their work, that they would approach Gluejar about launching a campaign.
“Eventually, we would like to pitch it to all publishers, but we are realistic and know publishers in general are going to wait and see how the model looks, and even then act slowly,” Hellman said. And certain works, such as the Harry Potter series, no matter how many people would like to see it made available, would pose intractable rights issues.
Glujar is developing relationships with companies that would perform the actual digitization.
“We’ll let them offer packages to the rights holders for conversion, and then the rights holders have to make sure their campaign goal is more than the cost of conversion plus whatever they want to make,” Hellman said.