The crowdfunding of creative projects has become incredibly popular lately (and at times, incredibly lucrative), most notably this past week when the Pebble E-Paper Watch crossed the $10 million threshold and shattered the record for most money raised via the Kickstarter platform. Most successful Kickstarter projects raise far less than that, of course only 46% of projects are successful. But there seems to be substantial power in leveraging the power of “the crowd” and the community to finance a number of creative efforts – movies, video games, theater, photography, fashion, books, and as I wrote about last month, academic research.
Here’s hoping that that bodes well for a new crowdfunding site that officially launches today. Unglue.it hopes to raise money for e-books -- but not, as is the case with platforms like Kickstarter or Unbound, to have these books written. Rather, the funds will go towards paying authors or publishers for existing works, giving them a one-time licensing fee in exchange for their releasing their e-books for free, under a Creative Commons license and without DRM.
These “unglued” e-books can then be easily accessed and read and shared by anyone, with anyone, on any device. (You know, like how it works with printed books.) As such, Unglue.it is tackling one of the main drawbacks of e-reading – we are finding books locked into a proprietary format, restricted to a specific device, only available through a particular bookseller.
Writing on his blog, Eric Hellman, the President of GlueJar – the company behind Unglue.it – argues, “If you can find a way to cover the fixed costs, you can make the ebooks free to everyone, everywhere. Libraries, who can make possible the effective distribution of these ebooks, are tired of being shut out of popular ebook lending and need new ways forward.” Hellman ties Unglue.it to a larger movement to make books more accessible online – efforts like the Digital Public Library of America, the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg and so on. “We’re all on the same team,” he writes.
Unglue.it campaigns will range from approximately $5000 to $25,000 -- the rights-holder gets to set the price (and, it's worth pointing out, the rights-holder does not lose any rights to their work and can enter into other licensing agreements and continue to make money from the book). Campaigns on the site will run for two to six months. As with similar crowdfunding platforms, projects only move forward if they receive enough pledges during that time period. There are also rewards associated with different funding levels: signed cover art, an author visit via Skype, a behind-the-scenes view of the artist's next project, for example.
Unglue.it launches today with five campaigns: Michael Laser’s 6–321, Joseph Nassise’s Riverwatch, Nancy Rawless’s Love Like Gumbo, Budding Reader’s Cat and Rat, and Open Book Publishers’s Oral Literature in Africa (written by Ruth Finnegan).