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The Free Ebook Foundation – Making the World Safe for Free Ebooks

by on September 8, 2015

Unglue.It and GITenberg, two projects concerned with creating a more sustainable ecosystem for free ebooks, have announced they’re joining forces as the Free Ebook Foundation, a nonprofit corporation set to be led and supported by Eric Hellman, technologist, founder, and president of the privately held company Gluejar Inc. “The mission of the Free Ebook Foundation is to make the world safe for free ebooks,” said Hellman in a brief interview with Public Libraries Online. Part of Hellman’s undertaking is envisioning the future of public ebooks.

“I think the important thing is to start thinking about public ebooks as part of the mission of public libraries. Public libraries are in almost every community in the country so they have a reach into these communities and the communities are producing interesting things. Libraries, public libraries especially, have an opportunity to play a much bigger role in creating and preserving the public commons,” said Hellman.

Hellman’s project Unglue.It, developed by Gluejar, launched in 2012 and has compiled a database of some 1200 Creative Commons licensed ebooks over the past few years. Included among the goals listed on Unglue.It’s website is providing libraries free ebooks without digital rights management, without device restrictions, without tracking of patrons, and without license expirations.

The Free Ebook Foundation’s other contributing member, GITenberg, took off in 2013 when founder Seth Woodworth sought to improve the public domain ebooks offered by Project Gutenberg. “It’s been such a pleasure to work with Seth Woodworth,” said Hellman, “We’ve sort of found that we have a lot of complementary skills and there are a lot of exciting things happening.”

To date, Woodworth has loaded some 43,000 public domain ebooks into GitHub, a version control and collaborative software development platform, and made them available for access and improvement by anyone for any purpose through the open source community. GITenberg’s ebooks also contain detailed metadata and are accessible in a wide variety of formats.

As for Unglue.It, it currently offers its users three ways of “unglueing” the ebooks it stores in its database. The company’s “Buy to Unglue” feature, which allows authors to set a funding goal and a per-copy price for consumers to purchase their work, remains the most beneficial way for libraries to use Unglue.It. The distribution platform allows libraries to purchase and loan an ebook to patrons on a one-ebook, one-user basis until the creator’s funding goal is met. A Creative Commons license is then applied.

Other methods Unglue.It uses include “Thanks for Ungluing,” which provides readers access to an author’s work with a Creative Commons license and asks them to contribute what they choose to thank the creator with their support. Finally, “Pledge to Unglue” allows authors to set a funding goal and rewards for their supporters. Readers pledge their support and once the campaign goal is reached, the work is created, the rewards are distributed, and a Creative Commons license is applied.

For more information about the future of free ebooks you can check out Eric Hellman’s blog here.


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