Friday, May 18, 2012

We Made Some Matches, Lighting Them is Up To You launched at noon yesterday. It was a good day, which means nothing awful happened. That's what launching a new website is like.

Here are some stats for our first 12 hours:
  • We had 2,151 unique visitors
  • We served 9,042 page views
  • We signed up 86 new ungluers, to total 665
  • We generated 68 pledges for 5 campaigns totaling $1,098
  • 543 tweets were sent about
The best performing campaign was for Ruth Finnegan's 1970 classic "Oral Literature in Africa", which raised 7% of its target in just 12 hours.  2 campaigns aimed at younger audiences lagged. If you care about six year olds or sixth graders, perhaps you'll consider supporting these.

A good half day, but we need to do better.

The publishing establishment is sneering at us. Its collective voice was captured by "Publishers Lunch" in 1 tweet,  2 dismissive words and 4 dots:
Hope Springs.... Prepares to Launch Effort to Make Books Free Via Crowdsourcing
(Nothing against Publisher's Lunch- they're the smartest journalists in the publishing biz; their best and worst moments are when they snipe at mistakes in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. And notice how they didn't fill in the dots, leaving room for whatever really happens!)

But when it comes right down to it, hasn't changed a thing. All we've done is to create a new tool. Some self-striking matches. If you want anything to actually change, it's entirely up to you. You have to light the matches.

If you want book publishing and book reading to be chained to a pay-per-copy pretend-its-print economic model, forget about and go buy ebooks locked to your kindle and monitored by Amazon.

On the other hand, if you want ebooks that can't be taken away from you and don't subject you to surveillance by Amazon or Apple or Adobe, then its time to cast your ballot for a different path.

If you want libraries to be able to focus on putting ebooks in front of readers rather than enforcing digital rights management and putting friction into every library transaction, then now is the time to act.

If you want to reward creators who made the books that you love instead of feeding a voracious supply chain that manages to spit a few pennies of royalties to an author for every $14.99 out of your pocket, then now is the time to send a message to that publishing establishment.

Because there are a lot of smart people in the business of creating books. I've met a lot of them. And at least 5 of them are also courageous. (Don't worry, more are coming!) But they are powerless to change anything without YOU. Whether you're a reader, a librarian, a school teacher or a scholar, it's you who gets to decide.

So do it.

Update 3PM: The second 12 hours weren't bad either.

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Monday, May 14, 2012 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, 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, 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 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 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.