unglue (v. t.) 2. To make a digital book free to read and use, worldwide.
May 28, 2012 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Unglue.It (v. t.) 4. For an author or publisher to accept a one-time fixed amount of money, raised by the public, for the perpetual release of an ebook under a Creative Commons license. A crowd-funded project created by Eric Hellman and friends at Gluejar.

The site launched with a test of five campaigns. There is a limited time-frame and at current rates only one book appears to have a chance of becoming unglued, Oral Literature in Africa, probably because it was featured on BoingBoing.

GUnglue.It in the press:[1],[2],[3],[4]
posted by stbalbach (11 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I absolutely adore this idea, I hope it works.
posted by thebestsophist at 10:04 PM on May 28, 2012


For some reason it lists a bunch of books that don't have campaigns, but "could." I think the odds of this happening with Ender's Game is, er, unlikely.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:44 PM on May 28, 2012


So... Like Kickstarter? Although obviously there are some differences, like instead of just the donors everyone gets it, and there's no need for different gift levels, etc.
The site launched with a test of five campaigns. There is a limited time-frame and at current rates only one book appears to have a chance of becoming unglued, Oral Literature in Africa
Oh man they went way to highbrow. I mean, I understand you want to go for people who not only want to read something, but also make it available because they think it's good for the world. But at the same time, you also want to get people who want to pay just because they want to read something. If you look at the Kindle store, it's the cheesy, pulpy stuff that sells the most.

Also, I think the rates are pretty high compared to what authors would normally get for an advance on a first novel. Especially when you consider the fact that the books are pre-funded so there's no risk in writing it, and not having it accepted once you're done.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 AM on May 29, 2012


While I'm very happy to see alternative methods of book funding here, the big win for authors is royalty streams over the long haul... taking a one-time payment up front and walking away is something that people usually try to avoid when writing books.

However, most authors do not have control over the disposition of their electronic publishing rights (that being one of the many things publishers try to grab and lock up) so I guess I'm not seeing how this would work with "mainstream" book authors. It would seem they would either wish to better monetize their publishing revenues via e-book sales themselves, if they can, or be at the whim of their publishing house for such a matter.

I was diligent in retaining my electronic publication rights, even though I am doing nothing with them for the time being; but it's hard to imagine signing them over for a lump sum.

I fully support creative commons and the like but authors already get the short end of the stick; I would rather see this campaign aimed at publishers to unlock and release books rather than keep them locked away forever.
posted by EricGjerde at 12:33 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


One interesting twist on this would be give authors an up front fee and then actually grant them a reasonable copyright timeframe before it goes CC. Like 5 years, 10 years, whatever.

I'm sure for the vast, vast majority of books most of the money is made in 5-10 years, probably only a few classics every stay that popular.

Also, what about character ownership? if it's CC licensed, that means you can remix it, presumably reusing characters. What happens if a book gets popular and someone wants to make a movie using the IP?
posted by delmoi at 12:38 AM on May 29, 2012


Character ownership and other IP... well, what if the upside from inventing a character that people love and want to experience more isn't that you get your fraction of a picocent every time that character does something filtered through various layers of money extractors (the current IP model, in microcosm) but that you get to be the inventor of that character and thus the value of what you do subsequently goes up (where we're going, chaps, like it or not).

How do you realise that value? Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on originality and punishes fraud, which is independent of IP law. With a success, you have made your originality valuable, and you can parlay that up in any number of ways - some as we did before mechanical reproduction, some brand-new to match our new technologies.

The downside is that you have a smaller probability of becoming rock star rich (a recent documentary on Fleetwood Mac had one of the minor contributors to Rumours saying "My accountant rang to tell me that I was now making $17,000 a day, and I only had a small piece of the action"), but that may not be so much of a downside really.

The upside is that you're part of an economy which doesn't rely on artificial restrictions to forcibly restrict supply (where we're going, chaps, like it or not) and are thus probably more likely to be realistically rewarded according to what you personally can supply. A LOT of bullshit goes away.

Probably to be replaced by more bullshit - such is the nature of life - but it's good to fork over the steaming pile now and again.
posted by Devonian at 2:14 AM on May 29, 2012


I've been kicking a very similar idea around in my head for the past few years now. I've done a bit of work focused on reducing textbook costs, and the concept of fixed-payment authorship has been intriguing.

My sense is that trying to buy publishing rights out is a non-starter in the areas where this would have the most impact. In this sense, I was leaning more toward a fixed + limited copyright term approach where the work is published with the understanding it will soon be released into public domain. The model needs to be self-sustaining, so it's also in the publisher's benefit to collect royalties (so as to pay for future fixed arrangements).

The execution here seems lacking. I hope I'm wrong, as I'd love to see this succeed.
posted by pinsomniac at 3:27 AM on May 29, 2012


if it's CC licensed, that means you can remix it, presumably reusing characters. What happens if a book gets popular and someone wants to make a movie using the IP?

Their FAQ says:
Unless otherwise indicated for specific books, we use the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license (CC BY-NC-ND) license. The rights holder chooses which Creative Commons license to apply.
[...]
Under ND (no derivatives) licenses, you cannot: make derivative works, such as translations or movies, without permission from the rights holder;
(Emphasis theirs.)

Especially when you consider the fact that the books are pre-funded so there's no risk in writing it

Their FAQ says:
We work with rights holders to decide on fair compensation for releasing a free, legal edition of their already-published books,
(Emphasis mine.)
posted by stebulus at 8:22 AM on May 29, 2012


then actually grant them a reasonable copyright timeframe before it goes CC.

CC doesn't replace Copyright-- CC and Copyright work in tandem.

From the Creative Commons website:

"With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify here. "
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:27 AM on May 29, 2012


I think it bears repeating that this is for books that have already been published. Whatever revenue these books made on first publication is dried up. 99% of books sell most of their copies when first published and then go out of print. It's not a replacement for traditional publishing. It's an attempt to address the problem of OOP books that are locked up for 90 years by Copyright - it's a terribly stupid situation.
posted by stbalbach at 9:11 AM on May 29, 2012


I would like to see a similar means for rescuing films that are no longer available on DVD.
posted by njloof at 11:00 PM on May 29, 2012


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