I and others on The Digital Shift have written about the efforts of Unglue.it to “unglue” books and make them openly available. The basic model is taken from crowdsourcing funding efforts. People pledge what they can, and if enough pledges are gathered before the time runs out the book is “unglued” and made openly available to all.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered another quite similar effort focused on libraries instead of individuals. Dubbed Knowledge Unlatched, the organization negotiates a fixed fee to be paid publishers for scholarly books, then seeks to distribute that fixed cost across participating libraries — the more libraries participate, the less the cost is to any individual library.
The KU web site lists such organizations as HathiTrust and JISC Collections as “partners” and the British Library Trust and the Open Society Foundation as “key supporters”. Interestingly enough, since the KU office is in London not far from Buckingham Palace, all of the “founding libraries” are Australian: Queensland University of Technology, The University of Melbourne, and the University of Western Australia.
I pointed out the parallel of these two efforts on Twitter, and Eric Hellman of Gluejar responded that he is in frequent contact with the KU Executive Director, and that he is a big fan of the KU effort as are they of Gluejar’s. So all is well in the crowdfunding ebooks world, and may all of these efforts and more prove successful as we move to new models of paying for creative and scholarly works.