Access to digital content is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century, not only for libraries, but also for the public. Unlike physical content, which has material costs and must be stored at a cost, digital content can be copied without cost. Yet the marketplace for e-books greatly resembles that of physical books with copyright holders creating virtual scarcity. There are works in the public domain and also those written with Creative Commons licenses, but particularly the latter can be difficult to find. Is there a way to increase the accessibility of e-books written under a Creative Commons license, move more content into this space, and still support content creators?
The people at Gluejar believe that there is such a way, and in May of 2012 they created Unglue.it.1 Their vision is to provide a sustainable means for content creators to offer free Creative Commons works. They also seek to provide easy access to Creative Commons works by creating a broad database of works with this license. Finally, they seek to work with libraries to connect patrons with not only content, but also content creators.2
I first learned about Unglue.it at a presentation at the New York Library Association’s 2012 Annual conference. The primary focus of the presentation was on crowd-funding to purchase the license for works, and then re-release the content under a Creative Commons license. Once a title was under a Creative Commons license, the former license holder still owned the license and could provide new versions, translations, or movie rights under a proprietary license. The initial license, however, makes the content universally and freely available. At the time they had only unglued a few titles, and some seemed skeptical about the range of this sort of campaign.
A year and a half later they are still going strong and now highlight three separate campaigns. The form I mentioned above is referred to as pledging to unglue. It is important to note that by favoring titles that do not currently have pledge campaigns running, the content creators may take notice and create a campaign.3 Another mechanism is buying to unglue it. This allows consumers to purchase select titles from unglue.it without DRM restrictions (particularly valuable to libraries). At a date determined by the content creator, if sufficient funds are achieved, the title will be released under a Creative Commons license.4
The final campaign, “Thanks-For-Ungluing,” launched April 30, 2014.5 The question posed by this campaign is will readers financially support content creators on content that they can receive for free? Uglue.it supports any donation over one dollar and readers can decide whether they wish to give a small amount, a large amount, or nothing at all.
One goal of this new program is to thank those who have been willing to unglue their work. This also is important for supporting content creators in this new space. Another stated reason for thanks-for-ungluing is to show content creators not currently involved in Unglue.it that there is a sustainable future for their work under a Creative Commons license. The majority of the funds go to the content creator, with processing fees taking up much of the remainder and a small portion going to support unglue.it on larger contributions.6
A number of titles have been added to unglue.it’s collection for this launch. Works by John Sundman, the Open Book Publishers of Cambridge, England, Yelena McManaman and Maria Droujkova, and Jim Bowering and Jake Hartnell.7 It remains to be seen whether the free content providers will be compensated sufficiently for this to be sustainable, profitable, and effective in recruiting new talent to the Creative Commons’ cause. Whether or not unglue.it achieves the success they hope to, e-books present a new marketplace, and it is important that innovations in this new space continue to be tried.
- Price, Gary. “The Crowdfunding of eBooks: Unglue.it Formally Launches This Thursday.” InfoDocket. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Gluejar. “Vision.” Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Gluejar. “Supporting.” Unglue.it. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Gluejar. “Buying.” Unglue.it. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Polanka, Sue. “’Thanks-for-Ungluing’ official launch today.” No Shelf Required. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Gluejar. “Thanks-for-ungluing.” Unglue.it. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Gluejar. “Thanks-for-ungluing Launches.” Unglue.it. Accessed May 21, 2014.