Monday, May 14, 2012

Unglue.it Launches on Thursday


I started blogging a little over three years ago. I found that it was a great way to organize my thoughts and it gave me an excuse to talk to people and ask questions about things that interested me. It became an extended conversation with so many readers about the future of libraries and the role of books and readers in our changing society. Also polarons, faster-than-light neutrinos, and log-normal distributions.

But I'm not the type to just write about things. We live in a time where it's easier than ever before for small groups of people to build new things, and if you've been reading the blog, you've had a front row seat to watch the development of such a thing. You've heard the story of sculptors who chip away stone to free the figures trapped inside the rock, or the novelist whose characters struggle to tell their stories. For me, Unglue.it is like that, it's something formed from the raw material of ideas from many people.  It just wants to exist.

If you've not been paying attention, Unglue.it is an effort to crowd-fund creative commons ebooks. 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.

One really exciting thing is that it's not just us. There's starting to be a Movement. Making books more available and more useful to everyone, everywhere is a huge undertaking, and there are a variety of efforts nucleating to address many different bits of the problem. Last week, I got together with Francis Pinter, whose "Knowledge Unlatched" effort could revolutionize scholarly monograph publishing. In April, I got together with Ash Kalb, who's bringing vintage science fiction books back to life at Singularity and Co. I've written here about DPLA, Internet Archive, Hathitrust, Library Renewal, Project Gutenberg and more. We're all on the same team.

This morning, we started the last testing of the Unglue.it machinery before launch. We're using real money. I'm offering to "unglue" an ebook comprised of five blog posts I wrote last year on Open Access eBooks. The campaign will end tomorrow no matter what, and we'll verify that we can collect money through Amazon Payments. (See the Unglue.it blog for the payment processor saga.)

If you want, you can help us test the site. You can enter a pledge (remember, it's real money!) and request premiums. Whether you pledge or not, you'll end up with a real ebook with a CC BY-SA license. You can make derivatives, add content, make translations, experiment. (But you might need to wait a week or two to get it). We'll use any cash we take in to cover some expenses (like the block of ISBNs that we bought. My lawyer says we can't offer premiums that include alcohol, but she didn't say I couldn't let people hit me up for a beer.

Already we've received a bunch of really great bug reports and suggestions. It turns out that if you want to pledge $100 billion billion, for example, the website isn't going to let you, and it won't give you a sensible error message.

We start "real" campaigns at noon (EDT) on Thursday (fingers crossed). Our launch line-up will have 5 campaigns. Until then we're frantically busy making sure everything is working as well as possible.

See you on the other side.

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