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Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife Series on Unglue.it!

Pro tip for authors: don’t kill off your heroes on page one, then destroy heaven and earth 3 ways before page 150 in the first book of a series. Unless, of course, you happen to have the talent and imagination to pull off something that audacious.

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Author Mur Lafferty

Which is what Mur Lafferty does successfully in Heaven, the first book in her “Afterlife” series, now available as a Creative Commons licensed ebook on Unglue.it (CC BY-NC-SA). The first 5 books in the series are all available; “Thanks for Ungluing” contributions for these books will help Mur keep the lights on while she finishes the sixth book in the series, entitled “Stones”.

Lafferty has earned a large audience as a podcaster. She has a voice you could listen to all day, whether she’d interviewing writers for Angry Robots Books or discussing the craft of writing on “I Should Be Writing“. Her daughter seems to have inherited some of this talent- she occasionally does a podcast called Princess Scientist’s Book Club.

I was a bit apprehensive about listening to the podcasts though. Lafferty’s writing voice is so original and funny that I worried her speaking voice would clash with the voice I heard in my head when I read Heaven. My fears were unfounded.

For example, “Listen” to this description:

I was sad about losing Daniel, but not as if we’d broken up. It was kind of like putting down a bag of potato chips when you knew they were empty calories, no matter how good they tasted.

You can just hear her, can’t you?

The Afterlife series doesn’t fit well into conventional genres, though I’m sure publishers have some cute name for it. It’s not science fiction or fantasy, it’s not really speculative fiction. It’s not romance either, or historical fiction, but it has elements of all of these. I’d call it crossover imaginative fiction. I wonder if that’s a real category. Whatever, I enjoyed it. Or, as much as it’s possible to enjoy an eschatological romcom.

Lafferty’s audacity as a writer carries over into a willingness to experiment with new business models. You can support her podcast through Patreon, and she’s funded the Afterlife series through Kickstarter. So you can imagine how thrilled we are to have her participating in Unglue.it.

The books are:

  • Heaven The Afterlife Series I
  • Hell The Afterlife Series II
  • Earth The Afterlife Series III
  • Wasteland The Afterlife Series IV
  • War The Afterlife Series V

We don’t yet have a way to support a group of books with a single credit card charge (it’s a story on our development tracker) but it’s better for Mur if you do one big thank you instead of 5 small one. Because she deserves a big Thanks.

Follow Mur at @mightymur

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Thanks-for-Ungluing launches!

Great books deserve to be read by all of us, and we ought to be supporting the people who create these books. “Thanks for Ungluing” gives readers, authors, libraries and publishers a new way to build, sustain, and nourish the books we love.

“Thanks for Ungluing” books are Creative Commons licensed and free to download. You don’t need to register or anything. But when you download, the creators can ask for your support. You can pay what you want. You can just scroll down and download the book. But when that book has become your friend, your advisor, your confidante, you’ll probably want to show your support and tell all your friends.

We have some amazing creators participating in this launch.

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John Sundman’s 1999 underground hit Acts of the Apostles, a novel about a Silicon Valley messiah, his cult following of brain hackers, and the convergence of biological and digital technologies, was the second book ever to have a Creative Commons license (The first was Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.) This book, together with the other two books in the “Mind Over Matter” series, Cheap Complex Devices and The Pains are now available for free download from Unglue.it.

Sundman’s half-new novel Biodigital is currently available exclusively through Unglue.it’s “Buy-to-Unglue” program and will earn its way to a Creative Commons license based on support from readers.  Substantially based on ActsBiodigital reimagines this tale in light of new science.

All four books are available on John’s Unglue.it publisher page.

Open Book Publishers

Open Book Publishers of Cambridge, England, is offering 2 titles from their list of academic titles in “Thanks for Ungluing”. The first is The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture, which brings together academics, librarians, entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers to address the apparent paradox whereby digital technology has made culture more accessible than ever before, while the norms regulating culture’s use – copyright and related rights – have become increasingly restrictive.

OBP’s second title, The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925: Theory of a Genre, is the only study to focus exclusively on the heyday of short story writing – the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – across French, English, Italian, Russian and Japanese writing. Focusing particularly on the stories of Guy de Maupassant, Henry James, Giovanni Verga, Anton Chekhov and Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Florence Goyet shows that these authors were able to create brilliant and successful short stories using the very simple ‘tools of brevity’ of their period.

Ungluers helped OBP to make Oral Literature in Africa and Feeding the City free to the world.

Moebius Noodles

Education is represented in “Thanks for Ungluing” by Moebius Noodles, a delightful book that helps parents teach math to preschoolers. How do you want your child to feel about math? Confident, curious and deeply connected? Then Moebius Noodles is for you. It offers advanced math activities to fit your child’s personality, interests, and needs.

 

Jim Bowering, Jake Hartnell

Jim and Jake graciously let us use their sci-fi novels for testing our new program. Bonus: both books are pretty mind-blowing. Jim’s Green Comet imagines … life on a comet. Jake’s 23rd Century Romance extrapolates romance into our plugged-in future.

More to come

We’ll have more “Thanks for Ungluing” books soon. Any ebook published with a Creative Commons license is eligible, so long as we can verify the rights status and the technical quality. email us at rights@gluejar.com if you have questions. We want to have a deep database of Creative Commons books, and for that we need plenty of author and publisher participation.

Please enjoy the books, and help us thank the creators for ungluing their books.

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Thanks-for-Ungluing test campaign: “23rd Century Romance”

A startup is just a business trying to figure out where to start. Unglue.it is no different. But now we’re finally doing what we should have been doing at the start. We’re solving the puzzle of distribution for free ebooks.

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Thank the creators at Unglue.it

Today, we’ve pushed an important piece of that puzzle out the door for testing. It’s called “Thanks for Ungluing“. We’re giving authors and publishers an honest way to earn some money from the books that they’ve made free via Creative Commons licenses: to ask you for it. It doesn’t matter if they’re scholars making their monographs available through open access or if they’re science fiction authors hoping to make it big, or educators just wanting to reach one more child. The important thing is they’ve decided to make their works free. That’s good for the rest of us and we need to thank them for doing so.

As we worked to build unglue.it, we slowly became aware of how money has corrupted the supply chain for books. Even when a book is made free, that supply chain eats up that freedom and tries to suck money out the book. Today, I found an ebook made free by a scholar selling for over $50 on Amazon. I shudder to think how much libraries are being asked to pay for it!

If you have created a Creative Commons licensed ebook, we’ll help you distribute it and we’ll let you ask the users for a contribution. Or not, if you prefer. If you download a Creative Commons licensed book from us, you’ll be sure it is what it says it is; you can pay or not as you prefer. We’ll always let you see where the money’s going.

For our test campaign, our friend Jake Hartnell has volunteered his novel 23rd Century Romance. Jake is also a software developer working on epub.js and Hypothes.is, and we very much hope to incorporate some of the cool stuff he’s been doing into future versions of unglue.it. But his novel is a lot of fun, so now’s the time to give it a spin.

Meanwhile we’d really appreciated it if you’d help us test the payment system. Try mis-keying your credit card, paying in Thai baht or whatever. User interface development is really hard and there are bound to be some bugs left. Tell us about them!

We’ll have a proper launch later this month. We’ll have some authors you might have heard of participating. And unglue.it will be well on its way to being “The Bookstore for Books that Want to be Free!”

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New Stories about Africa’s Future by Young Africans

I’ve been a compulsive reader all my life, and some of my favorite authors have written about Africa, Nobel Prize winners Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka; the filmmaker, Ousemene Sembène, the novelist Chinua Achebe. But like most Americans, I have read very little by people my age or younger, especially contemporary African writers living in Africa.  This is why  I am particularly delighted with the chance to fill this gap with our first Buy-to-Unglue campaign, for  Lagos_2060 .

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Help us make Lagos_2060 free to the world by buying a copy for yourself!

I hope that any Ungluers who read science fiction (and we know from your wishlists that there are a lot of you who do) will be just as intrigued as well.

This anthology is a window on Africa from the point of view of Africans.  The stories are written in English by young men and women who live and work in Lagos in 2014. Perhaps there is a future Nobel Prize or Nebula Award winner among them.  The volume includes some original illustrations by the Nigerian publisher, DADA, which is also a design firm.

Some tales have the action-packed plots of fan fiction and comics. Some are lyrical and some philosophical.  Some set the scene for a longer novel or the beginning of a movie.  Some are funny, some romantic, some include English pidgin conversations, which is like the Carribean dialect.   Each story in Lagos_2060 shares one premise:  to imagine the megacity of Lagos 100 years after Nigeria’s independence from British Colonial rule:

“It was 60 years into the third millennium and work still defined Lagosians.  You were either working or you were nothing, worse than an area boy and not to be seen within the city.”

- Mango Republic by Terh Agbedeh

Even where Lagos has become an economically powerful city-state, advance weaponry and environmental disasters may make a new Civil War inevitable.

“They raped the ocean and it obliged them by giving birth to a dream city.”

- Cold Fusion by Ayodel Arigbabu

In most of these stories, climate change has wrecked havoc, turning frogs from the fragile, first to die, the “canary in the mine,” into creatures which kill with a poison touch.

“Even if we shut the water ways, it might do very little to stop the attacks.  Some of the attacks occurred inside houses.  These frogs are able to squeeze into tubes way smaller than they are.”

- Amphibian Attack by Afolabi Muheez Ashiru

Oil has been exhausted.  Solar power and water recycling has been balanced to create carbon neutral energy sources, but not enough to reverse global warming in the surounding countryside.  The Sahara — where no food can be grown — creeps further and further south, while the ocean rises under a city already dependent on floating buildings and artificial islands.

Robots have arrived in Lago. Stepford wives can also be Stepford husbands, or Stepford workers.

“Do you want a gynoid that looks like a woman? A Superbot? An ASIMO?…We can make it look just like you.”

- Metal Feet by Temitayo Olofinlua

Even in the face of time travel, people have the same emotions as always:

“I want to be here when you wake up, you have been gone for so long, you need to behold a beautiful sight, you need to smell love, feel love.

I know I am not wrong, because I have known you deeply for a very long time.  We just haven’t met.”

- A Starlit Night by Kofo Akib.

Lagos_2060 fills brings new voices to the “commons” our global village, ones which imagining Africa hurtling into a future which is determined by its own mix of tradition and innovation, culture and technology, utopia and dystopia.

“There is definitely space for that kind of writing, African science fiction and fantasy…there is so little of it here in the western market…so it’s like nothing, like a big hole that needs to be filled.”

- From the introduction to LAGOS_2060, a conversation with Nnedi Okorafor, author of Zahrah the Windseeker and Who Fears Death.

Most of the science fiction about non-European cultures has tried to reimagine the often destructive relationship between European culture and Indigenous peoples has been written by authors from the West, such as Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice and Salt.  There is a new generation of writers like Cory Doctorow and Nick Harkaway who also pay attention to the economic and technical interconnections of First and Third Worlds.  But we have rarely heard directly from writers outside North America and Europe. One of the key things that drew me to Unglue.it as a “book nerd” — the only member of this start up who can’t code — was the potential ease of access to writers from all over the world.

If this is one of the things that makes you an Ungluer as well, please go to https://unglue.it/work/128685/ and buy and download an ebook of  LAGOS_2060 in the format of your choice.  Then tell us — and tell these young authors — there is a worldwide audience watching and listening to what they have to tell us about their life and literature.

- Amanda

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For Creators: Unglue.it’s “Thanks-for-Ungluing” program

Here’s a description of the “Thanks for Ungluing” program we’ll be launching as part of the “Bookstore for Books that want to be free“:

Unglue.it’s “Thanks-for-Ungluing” program is designed to help rights holders promote and monetize their Creative Commons licensed books.

Unglue.it aims to be an “e-bookstore for books that want to be free”. We bring together ebooks that are in the public domain, ebooks that have Creative Commons licenses, and ebooks that are raising funds to become Creative Commons licensed in the future. The website encourages its members to support open access to great books, i.e. to become “ungluers”.

Rights holders participating in the Thanks-for-Ungluing program can request payment for their books on a pay-what-you-want basis. They can also set suggested prices as well as metadata and descriptions for books that they claim.

Unglue.it also provides services to libraries to help them manage Creative Commons material, such as making available catalog records and verifying licenses.

Questions

How do I participate?

There’s an agreement (PSA, Platform Services Agreement) to sign, and you’ll need to create an unglue.it account to use the website as a rights holder.  Once your status is confirmed, you can start a “Thanks for Ungluing Campaign” at any time (after the launch of the program).

How much does it cost?

There’s no charge to join. We charge $0.25 + 8%, which includes credit card fees. Compare that to Paypal.

What file formats do you support?

The website is designed to work with pdf, epub, and mobi.

Where are the files hosted?

We typically link to files housed at Internet Archive.

What statistics do you provide?

Up to the minute download and revenue totals are always available on your rights holder page.

Can self-publishing authors participate?

Yes, as long as we can confirm that you are the author of your book and that your ebook files meet industry standards.

What metadata do I need?

All books in the Thanks for ungluing program must have an ISBN. If your book is listed in Google Books, you can add it by searching for it in Unglue.it.

For more information, see the rights holder FAQ at https://unglue.it/rightsholders/

As always, comment and spreading-of-the-word is welcome.

Creative Commons Books that Want Promotion

Unglue.it is putting together a special promotion for Creative Commons licensed ebooks, to run between Christmas and New Year’s.  If you’d like your book to be part of the promotion, please let us know at rights@gluejar.com. If you’d like to nominate a book, leave a comment.

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A Bookstore for Books that Want to be Free

Soon, we’ll be launching a new phase of Unglue.it.

How do we describe what we’re doing? When we did the first implementation of “Buy-To-Unglue” (as a test, not a launch) I told a lot of people about it, but it wasn’t so easy to explain. Unglue.it would be sort of a Crowdfunding site, sort of a bookstore, sort of a library distributor. My explanation was too much “how” and not enough “why”. Finally, I hit upon a simple description of our vision for the site: “A Bookstore for Books that Want to be Free”.

Free books just don’t work for the usual e-bookstore, because of perverse incentives. If you make the free books better, people stop buying the books you’re making money on. So the free books turn into loss-leaders: they’re the cheap crap that gets  buyers into the store, then you try to convince them that they REALLY want is the super-duper deluxe version of Moby Dick, and it’s only $10.99! So all the incentives for  “Bookstores that Want You to Buy Books” play against quality free ebooks.

Free books don’t work very well for libraries either. There’s so much free stuff out there that libraries would need to spend a too much of effort selecting and cataloging the really good ones. And once that’s done, why should people go to the library when they can get those books for free elsewhere? It turns out that the big bucks that libraries are shelling out for ebooks are paying for lots of infrastructure. True, much of that infrastructure is deployed to “protect” the content (from the users), but there’s also a fair amount of necessary infrastructure (metadata, for example) that gets paid for out of the purchase price.

Free ebooks have been problematic for publishers, but not in the way that you might think. The publishers who have worked with us to unglue their books have been surprised at how much doing so has helped their print sales. But working with the sell-books-bookstores has been tricky. Amazon does NOT make it easy to put free ebooks on the kindle, for example. Selling paid versions of a book alongside a free version can be tricky!

A “Bookstore for Books that Want to be Free”, on the other hand, can create incentives to make the Free Ebooks better. By encouraging people to reward the best ebooks. By supporting authors and publishers that want their works to be free. By creating a distribution infrastructure that supports libraries rather than treating them like the enemy. By saying NO to restrictive DRM and licensing terms that last forever.

That’s what we want Unglue.it to become.

Unglue.it has been missing one important piece of functionality to make this vision real. We haven’t had a way to reward rights holders that have already given their books Creative Commons licenses to make them free. So we’re in the process of adding that functionality. We’re calling it “Thanks for Ungluing”. There will be a suggested price, but ungluers will be able to set that price to zero. We’ve started reaching out to some Creative Commons authors, so far with some encouraging responses. If you are the author or publisher of a Creative Commons licensed book, please contact us so we can help readers support you.

Meanwhile, the development of our library ebook distribution system is proceeding. If you’d like to help us test it, read about it here and then add your library here. Expect to see code on Github soon. There’s a lot of work yet to do, but with your help, we’ll get there!

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