Unglue.it, the crowdfunding platform developed to encourage publishers to make ebooks DRM-free and open access under a Creative Commons license, in January launched a beta test of “Buy to Unglue,” a new crowdfunding model that will offer ebook licenses in exchange for donations.
Unglue.it launched in May 2012 with a traditional, pledge-based crowdfunding model. Rights holders can set a funding threshold that they feel would merit making their work open access, along with a deadline for the campaign. If pledges meet that funding threshold prior to the deadline, the title is released as an “unglued” ebook edition, free to share and copy under a Creative Commons license.
By contrast, with the new Buy to Unglue model, ebook purchases and downloads—rather than pledges—will serve as the crowdfunding mechanism. Every Buy to Unglue title will come with a Creative Commons license set to go into effect at a date in the future, determined by the rights holder. Each purchase of the title will then shave time off of that deadline and move the date closer. Unglue.it’s original pledge-based campaign model will continue to be an option for interested publishers and authors, as will “thanks for ungluing” campaigns, which offer Creative Commons licensed ebooks under a pay-what-you-want model.
Pledge-based campaigns have Unglued several titles, including Ruth Finnegan’s Oral Literature in Africa and Lauren Pressley’s So You Want to Be a Librarian, but Eric Hellman, president of Unglue.it parent Gluejar, notes that the pledge model was designed, in part, to help solve a problem that is no longer very prevalent.
“When we started out, we thought a lot of the campaigns would be for conversion projects—we’d take an old book that wasn’t in ebook form and fund the conversion,” he explained in an interview prior to the announcement. “Since that time—it’s been three years— all of the books that are of value have been converted, or aren’t being converted for particular [rights-related] reasons. So the amount of conversion projects that were suitable for crowdfunding just weren’t large enough to sustain Unglue.it as an ongoing project.”
On a related note, when Unglue.it’s supporters created campaigns for titles that were already available as ebooks, the pledge-based model was not designed offer donors a copy of the title. The company hopes that this new model will prove attractive to both rights holders and ebook consumers.
“In thinking about how to take existing ebooks—books that have already been converted—and move them to open access, we realized that the logical thing to do would be to use the sale of the ebook as the fundraising tool,” he said.
In addition, while the library community is generally supportive of open access projects, the pledge model did not offer anything tangible in exchange for pledges, making it difficult for institutions such as libraries to justify donations to these crowdfunding efforts. With Buy to Unglue, Unglue.it is offering a free distribution platform that will enable libraries that have purchased a Buy to Unglue ebook to loan that title to patrons under a one-ebook, one-user model, until the fundraising goal is reached and the ebook’s Creative Commons license activates.
“Libraries aren’t set up to do pledging, for a variety of reasons,” Hellman said. “When we act as a conventional distribution channel to a library, it’s a lot easier for them to invoke their existing purchasing processes to participate, rather than having them try to participate in a pledge campaign. From both standpoints, we figured it would make sense to develop the capability to sell ebooks through our platform, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The first title available for download via the Buy to Unglue model is Lagos_2060, a science fiction anthology curated by Ayodele Arigbabu, and written by Afolabi Muheez Ashiru, Okey Egboluche, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Kofo Akib, Ayodele Arigbabu, Adebola Rayo, Terh Agbedeh, and Temitayo Olofinlua, with stories envisioning possible futures for Africa’s second-fastest growing city. It costs $6 for an individual license, and $10 for a one-user, one-ebook library license. At press time, it had $29,802 more to go to become open access.