April 20, 2024

Pay to Free a Book

Eric Hellman of Openly Informatics fame (subsequently bought by my employer OCLC) has launched his new project: Unglue.it. The site uses a crowd-sourced funding (or “crowdfunding”) model to raise enough money to pay book authors to open up their books as ebooks for free. As described on the site:

Unglue.it is a a place for individuals and institutions to join together to give their favorite ebooks to the world. We work with rights holders to decide on fair compensation for releasing a free, legal edition of their already-published books, under Creative Commons licensing. Then everyone pledges toward that sum. When the threshold is reached (and not before), we collect the pledged funds and we pay the rights holders. They issue an unglued digital edition; you’re free to read and share it, with everyone, on the device of your choice, worldwide.

This follows the model of sites like Kickstarter.com, where individuals pledge various amounts to support projects. Like KickStarter, Unglue.it offers various rewards pegged at specific pledge amounts as compensation to contributors. Also like KickStarter, each book “campaign” on Unglue.it has an end date.

For example, the campaign for Riverwatch by Joseph Nassise is well underway, but nearly $25,000 must be raised in 43 days to open it up for everyone. One of the benefits offered is a 45-minute Skype video chat for your  library or reading group for $150.

I’ll be watching this with interest, to see if it is indeed possible to open up books for everyone this way. Who knows? I may even be pledging.


Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.