Friday, June 17, 2011

We Need a Name for Our Ungluing Books Service

In 1996, the company I worked for was briefly named "Company B". The day a new name for the company was to be unveiled was really quite exciting. The company that had been AT&T was being split into three pieces. The "A" piece, was to keep the AT&T name and the long-distance phone service. The "C" piece was NCR, which had been acquired a few years before for reasons no one really understood. The "B" piece was going to sell telecommunications equipment and would be centered around our beloved Bell Labs. That's what the "B" stood for.

Nobody was excited by the name "Lucent Technologies" when it was announced. Millions had been spent on a brand consultancy, and more had been spent trying to get Judge Greene to allow the use of "Bell" in the name. And none of us could comprehend that with all that money, they hadn't even bothered to secure the "" domain name.

Our management struggled to convince us of the benefits of a meaningless name. They told us the name was an "empty vessel" which meant it would only acquire the meaning that we put into it with our "Bell Labs Innovations". The name had been field tested with focus groups, and nobody hated it. The domain name was acquired.

In late 2005, I needed a name for my company, because I was selling the business along with the name to a non-profit. The company itself was to become an empty shell that would hold money until I had something to do with it. I asked my son for name suggestions and we came up with "Gluejar".

Last year, as Gluejar began serious work on a new business, I back-formed the term "ungluing ebooks" from the company name. I didn't really expect to still be using the term eight months later, but its "empty-vessel" quality has proved to be useful. People have no idea what it means to "unglue" an ebook, so we have the opportunity to fill the word with meaning. The downside, of course, is that we have to explain what it means. "Crowd-funding the relicensing of ebooks with Creative Commons" is a mouthful, and most people don't understand that either!

The language surrounding ebooks can be tricky. "Free" is an immediate turn-off for publishers and authors who want to earn a living from their books; "unlock" suggests breaking DRM, "liberate" suggests that the books were in prison. So we keep on using "unglue".

We've brainstormed a bit about a name for the ungluing-ebooks website we're building. Our working name for the site is "". It's a name that  describes with reasonable accuracy the activity that we want to occur on the site, and it has some library flavor to it. From Wikipedia:
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings or popes have provided to musicians, painters, and sculptors.
"BookPatrons" is a bit boring, though. Will ordinary people want to think of themselves as "patrons" of books? Does the "pater" root make it seem a bit male? (Will we get competition from ""?)

Maybe we should "stick" to Gluejar or some other "unglue" related name. What do you think? This is your chance to be consulted!

If you think that "ungluing books" or "BookPatrons" are really stupid names, please say so now, in the comments. If you think they work well, tell us that too. You can contact us privately, too, with your great ideas.

It can be fun to come up with really awful names, too. My worst effort: "".


  1. is bad; but would be pretty good.

  2. etherBooks



    Republic of Books

    Rex Libris


    unbooked books


  3. Koha for "gift" being already taken, maybe "potlatch" - similar concept but used in the Pacific NorthWest.
    Or, as the "zotero" guys did (I think), translate a word in fake-Albanian: available domain names are hard to come by these days.
    For instance "crowd book" would be "folkbok" in (very) fake Norwegian or Swedish, "follalibro" in fake-Italian, "bukuramai" in fake Malay, etc.
    => endless fun with Google Translation.

  4. There's "Girji" which is how you say "book" in Sami. If you're a dilbert fan, you know to beware of CowOrks.

    But it looks like NOBODY likes "bookpatrons"!

  5. Dirimo is the Latin word for "to pull apart" (or at least according to Google Translate!)

  6. Some play around codex? In the uk patrons are users of pub car parks....we put up with it in US library systems etc but it still doesn't sit Comfortably

  7. I like the idea of micro patronage - bringing the crowdsourcing ideals of micro-lending etc to the funding schemes of the middle ages. :-)

    Of course, as others have pointed out, "patron" may not sit well with some people.

    I feel that you're never going to come up with a name that easily conveys a large portion of the idea to people. You're doing something new, and if you're successful (which I really hope you are) then whatever you call it will become the definition. :-)

    I do quite like "ungluing" actually. I was thinking about "unbind"/"unbound" in terms of the physical to digital - but it's about much more than that, and the metaphorical glue describes the legal restrictions well.

  8. Maybe what we need to unglue books is a solvent.

  9. If we go with the unglue concept, what do people think of a domain name like or or

  10. While some library folk like patrons, there is a periodic discussion over on PUBLIB about what to call library users. Some like customers, some like patrons, personally, I most often use "library users" but in certain circles, that has bad vibes.

    Good luck, I personally like the ungluing concept.

  11. How about a name related to an insect known to eat the glue in old book bindings: the booklouse, or psocid? (Don't all say eeeeeew at once!)

  12. Silverfish?

    Only thing is that book destruction (at least in terms of insects eating) is "bad" and (what we're currently calling) ungluing is "good".

  13. Does a silverfish perchance make something beautiful from all that glue consumption?

  14. Don't know - if I find a silverfish I try and squash it immediately.
    (It goes without saying that if Silverfish was chosen the the logo should be of a fish that happens to be silver, rather than a creepy insect. :-)

  15. Late to the party, but is there some sort of play on words with 'solvent' you could use? That is something that 'unglues'.

    SolveNT (New Trends, Next Technologies, New copyrighT)

    Just a very late thought.