78 Comments

Open thread: Amazon forces Unglue.it to Suspend Crowdfunding for Creative Commons eBooks

Amazon Payments has informed us that they will no longer process pledge payments for Unglue.it, forcing us to suspend all active ungluing campaigns. According to a Senior Account Manager at Amazon, Amazon has decided against “boarding fresh crowdfunding accounts at this time”. Amazon has been providing payment services for Unglue.it, as it does for the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

Unglue.it offers a win-win solution to readers, who want to read and share their favorite books conveniently, and rights holders, who want to be rewarded for their work.

The Unglue.it website supports crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for specific, already-published books. When a campaign reaches the goal set by the rights holders, Unglue.it pays them to “unglue” their work. Supporters get a digital edition with a Creative Commons license as specified during the campaign. These licenses make the edition free and legal for everyone to read, copy, and redistribute, worldwide. Everybody benefits.

Amazon has required us to void all pending authorizations. However, this does not affect the Oral Literature in Africa Campaign, which was successful and has been fully funded. That ebook, being produced by Open Book Publishers, is almost ready for release. It will be available under a Creative Commons Attribution license for you to enjoy, use, share, translate, remix.

We are already hard at work to implement a new payment method for Unglue.it, and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available. Until then, the best way for you to express your support is to register as an ungluer, urge your friends to register as ungluers, and let us know which books you want to unglue by making a wishlist. The more ungluers we have, the more rights holders will join us for our re-launch. We’re also looking forward to hearing from you here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter with the hashtag #unglueit.

With your continuing support, we will survive these difficulties to unglue many, many books. Maybe someday, billions of people will read unglued books and will look back with amazement on the span of years when Amazon dominated the world of ebooks.

78 comments on “Open thread: Amazon forces Unglue.it to Suspend Crowdfunding for Creative Commons eBooks

  1. […] Amazon Payments has informed us that they will no longer process pledge payments for Unglue.it, forcing us to suspend all active ungluing campaigns. According to a Senior Account Manager at Amazon,…  […]

  2. […] Wie Eric Hell­man von unglue.it — einer hier bereits beschrie­be­nen Platt­form zur Frei­set­zung von Büchern unter CC-Lizenz mit Hilfe von Crowd­fun­ding — soeben mit­teilte, hat sich Ama­zon aus der Abwick­lung der unglue.it-Unterstützungsvorgänge zurück­ge­zo­gen; Nähe­res im Blog von unglue.it. […]

  3. Thank you for informing us. I just wrote a short post about this in our blog (in German): http://www.kraut-publishers.de/blog/?p=525
    All the best
    Andrea

    • Thanks for spreading the word. (Sadly none of us read German, but happily Google translate at least lets me get the general idea.) It’s fascinating to see a non-US perspective on payment processing options (which I know are very US-based).

      We do have an alternative we’ve been working on for some time, so now we’re working on it faster. We’ll keep everyone posted.

  4. […] Open thread: Amazon forces Unglue.it to Suspend Crowdfunding for Creative Commons eBooks « unglue.i… <b>On salue bien haut la toute nouvelle librairie SF, Singularity&co, qui ouvre aujourd'hui. […]

  5. This is yet another example of why entrusting so much of our digital interactions to giant vertically-integrated corporations is risky. Screw Amazon. If I have to, I’ll send you a check next time (at least until the postal service is mothballed because it serves unprofitable routes).

  6. To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that Amazon decided to pull the plug after they were already processing payments. Was there something you all were doing “wrong” that brought UnglueIt to their attention? In the unlikely event that they are really out to get you the ec2 instances are next…

    • I don’t want to speculate too much since honestly we don’t have a lot of information to go on and this has all happened pretty suddenly. Believe me I’d rather be able to be more transparent but I don’t want to inadvertently make unfounded accusations. Sorry I don’t have more specifics for you :(

  7. A bump on the road, keep your game tight and you’ll be just fine. :)

  8. […] news etonnante — Amazon ferme sa solution de paiement au site de libération de textes unglue.it  […]

  9. Just for background, you can see the history of Unglue.it’s efforts to “start-up” with a crowdfunding payment system in previous blogs by Eric. We have always wanted to have diverse payment options with convenience for Ungluers and a low transaction cost for Rights Holders. In general, there seems to be little detailed individual communication with clients from customer service at large service providers, especially in advance of policy changes.

  10. […] Amazon decided to stop processing Unglue.it payments (crowdfunded creative commons for ebooks). […]

  11. PayPal? Hell…Bitcoin?

    • as soon as we find a rightsholder willing to set a price in bitcoin…

      • Not entirely necessary. Though the exchange rate fluctuates, you can update prices in Bitcoin on a per minute basis and as soon as you receive payment you can send it automatically (with a couple hours of software dev) to an exchange to be sold. Bit-Pay automates this entire process for you or you can do it yourself and have funds transferred from the exchange periodically to your bank account. Going beyond pricing, my url is a site where all rightsholders are willing to be paid in Bitcoin. It’s all we handle.

    • Paypal does seem to work for an Italian crowdfunding website – it’s in Italian but I am pretty sure you can explore it anyways using the automatic translator Google Chrome has. Here’s the link: http://www.eppela.com

      Best of luck, I retweeted your post and immediately registered to your website – great idea!

  12. I’d suggest you try using Stripe and Bitcoin.

  13. Reblogged this on The Chronicles of NoiVad and commented:
    This is yet another reason I no longer shop at Amazon:

  14. Not sure if possible, but Dwolla? Stripe?

  15. […] forces Unglue.it to Suspend Crowdfunding for Creative Commons eBookshttp://blog.unglue.it/2012/08/09/open-thread-amazon-forces-unglue-it-to-suspend-crowdfunding-for-cre… […]

  16. Amazon is just another piece of the fascist state. No surprise. The surprise is that you used them at all. But maybe you’re young and didn’t realize that you’ve been lied to about everything.
    p.s. what alternatives do people use to shoppin at amazon?

  17. Why don’t you use PayPal?

  18. If you are looking for crowdfunding help, the guys at Invested.in are fantastic at setting up the backend processing necessary. http://invested.in/about-us

  19. Arranging a Bitcoin payment option would be great.

  20. We ended up going with Google Checkout and their payment-processing for Dark Matter Chocolate Laboratory’s online store, because we didn’t feel like PayPal or Amazon could be fully trusted. I’m not sure I trust Google, either, of course… but it seemed like the lesser evil. Is there a reason they aren’t on your list as a payment processor?

    • They don’t do delayed payments, which we need for a pledge system, only immediate transactions. (Hi, Kat!)

      • Hrm. They may not *mean* to do delayed payments, but nobody seemed to mind when I left one hanging for a month while we worked a delivery schedule out with someone.
        They authorized the credit card right away, though, which may mean that it was holding some of their credit limit. I can imagine that being an issue if something is going to sit for a bit while the campaign runs.

        (Hi Andromeda!)

    • Interesting. Email me details?

  21. +1 for bitcoin

    • Can one buy bitcoins right now? I thought they were so valuable that, in general, they were not really useful.

      • Yes, through exchanges, MtGox is the largest atm. They are about $11 each and gaining about 1% a day but can be split down to 0.00000001 so minimum values shouldnt be a problem.

        Transfer is instant with little or no fees and cannot be reversed or canceled, for now there are various escrow service to allow for delayed payments, it’s being built into bitcoin atm (its already in it but no easy way of using it for now).

      • Forgot to mention, Bit-pay is a service that allows you to receive bitcoin payments in US dollars.

  22. […] problema llegó cuando a Amazon (su procesador de pagos) no le gustó la idea del proyecto (Obvio pues, le estaban dando en la torre a su negocio de libros) y decidió que ya no […]

  23. […] burdens” and “contractual obligations.” Unglue.it has been “required to void all pending authorizations,” though the one book that has already been unlocked – Oral Literature in Africa, a […]

  24. […] to buy eBook rights to books that exist only in printed form. The company wrote a blog post after Amazon suspended its account: Amazon Payments has informed us that they will no longer process pledge payments for Unglue.it, […]

  25. Amazon payments is US-only anyway, at least for the recipients of payments. Kickstarter uses them too and it’s very frustrating for the “rest” of the world!

    You guys hopefully are the future. The concept of intellectual property is, as a whole, an obstacle to progress. Chose an internationally viable solution so that more people can support you.

  26. You may not receive a ton of payments in bitcoin (for now, at least), but I feel like it’s the responsibility of everyone that gets censored by the payment oligarchs to accept bitcoin. Please help be part of the solution by accepting bitcoins, and contributing to the network effect! I would love to spend my bitcoins freeing books!

  27. Switch to bitcoin. Prohibit .mobi & .azw formats.

    • Creative Commons licenses allow format-shifting; we stipulate that unglued books be issued in ePub, but then you are free to shift them (or not) to whatever other electronic format you like. Putting restrictions on format shifting would not only require a different license but would go against the openness we’re trying to foster. You, of course, are welcome to consume unglued ebooks in whatever format and on whatever device you like best.

    • As Andromeda notes, .mobi is allowed by the license. .azw, which is the encrypted, DRM wrapped .mobi file, is not.

  28. […] das hier vor kurzem erwähnte Unglue.it, welches Büchern via Crowdfunding befreien will:» Amazon forces Unglue.it to Suspend Crowdfunding for Creative Commons eBooks 12designer 99designs hat das Berliner Pendant 12designer übernommen und expandiert damit nach […]

  29. The success of your model = the failure of theirs. It sucks that you lost your payment method but it makes sense why they cut it.

    I think http://dwolla.com might be a good alternative option for you?

  30. I’d suggest using Dwolla as a payment option. Any transaction over $10 is just 25 cents, $10 and under is free. Also Dwolla has an open API system. Only excepted in the US tho.
    If interested, give me a shout at diana [at] dwolla.com

    Always interested in helping the publishing industry for writers.

  31. […] am Blog von unglue.it beschrieben wickelt Amazon die Bezahlvorgänge hinter Kickstarter und auch für unglue.it mit […]

  32. The long and funnier version is now on my personal blog: http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2012/08/why-im-not-mad-at-amazon.html

  33. […] notifies the startup it can no longer do the processing. Founder Eric Hellman‘s blog post is here, and Laura Hazard Owen’s story is here. unglue.it’s first successful project, Oral […]

  34. naked bitcoin would not enable delayed transactions. so you would need a ‘proxy’ btc-adress for every book that stores the money as long as the liberation goes.
    the nice thing is this: if one unglueing fails, sending the coins back where they came from is trivial and safe as it is all recorded in the blockchain. donors could be anonymous and still get their money back.

    the disadvantage of the proxy-idea is that prices fluctuate as long as the ungluing goes. so the proxy might loose some if it’s purchasing power. but it may as well grow, so i think it’s worth it.

    needless to say most authors would want it all exchanged in dollars. but that should be easy.

  35. Damn, that corporate cyber-bullying starts to be very annoying. Don’t give up! I agree with earlier comments: Dwolla could be a good call.

  36. […] A simple alternative would be something like unglue.it where “unglue (v. t.) 4. For an author or publisher, to accept a fixed amount of money from the public for its unlimited use of an ebook” and the author gets to eat.  Of course Amazon got wind and tried to shut their payment struture down and you can read more about that here http://blog.unglue.it/2012/08/09/open-thread-amazon-forces-unglue-it-to-suspend-crowdfunding-for-cre…. […]

  37. You should think your idea to the end – and relaize, that BITCOIN is the only payment, you need to implement – old school payment systems will never harmonize with new school ideas!

  38. […] Amazon has forced the e-book crowdfunding platform Unglue.it to suspend its receipt of pledges (Unglue.it, which I covered here, has been using Amazon to process payments). Although it might seem a little suspicious that a bookseller like Amazon is targeting a Creative Commons-oriented project lie Unglue.it, this appears to be part of a larger crackdown on crowdfunding. […]

  39. It looks like Amazon might be interested in acquiring Kickstarter. Why else would they stop processing payments for all crowdfunding businesses except Kickstarter? The legal challenges that exist with crowdfunding certainly exist with Kickstarter too.

  40. […] No seu blog, pelo menos, os representantes do  Unglue.it escreveram que um dia as pessoas se admirarão pelo fato de terem sido obrigadas a pagar pelos livros na Amazon, em vez de ter livre acesso à eles. […]

  41. […] No seu blog, os representantes do  Unglue.it estimulam as pessoas que acreditam no seu serviço e modelo de negócio a continuarem enviando sugestões de livros para relançamento e escreveram que um dia as pessoas se admirarão pelo fato de terem sido obrigadas a pagar pelos ebooks ao invés de ter livre acesso à eles! […]

  42. vic wrote: “The concept of intellectual property is, as a whole, an obstacle to progress.”

    As a small publisher of some of the most innovative literature being written in the US and abroad, I always find this statement sadly uninformed. We suffered a net loss of $28,000 last year; ergo we *paid* that amount to publish our authors. And we use print-on-demand. Had we published traditionally, we would have lost approximately $370,000. Neither I nor our poetry editor takes a salary. Virtually all of the most forward-looking writers make less than a few hundred dollars a year in royalties; many make under $50 a year.

    Some of our authors spent seven years writing their book. Seven years. While no one would think it right to take a loaf of bread from a grocery store or cup of coffee from a cafe without paying for them, an increasing number of uninformed people seem to think that art has no value — neither the time nor the talent nor the intellect of truly visionary people. I presume many of you hold jobs that pay you a salary. Is the job you do more valuable than the job of writers, musicians, and artists? Art of the quality of our authors, that requires tremendous amounts of research and revision, is not a hobby; it is a job — and often with goals that include the benefit of humanity now and in the future.

    It is a very old — and insidious — argument that artists should create for free; Western culture invented this myth for its own consumerist benefit: “Make intellectual and creative property free so that we big corporations can freely take and profit from it.” You would be seen as having more integrity if you just admit thaat you, personally, do not want to pay for a work of literary, visual or musical art rather than arguing some pseudo-philosophical point.

    We give our authors 40% royalties, as compared to the industry standard of 7-10%. We do not want to have to change our business model. However, with the exponential decline in reading and book-bying, and the growing art-for-free movement, it’s likely we and a host of other innovative publishers will not be in business in three years. Groundbreaking publishers like Jaded Ibis are where intellectual progress starts, and what we publish is what gets co-opted by less intrepid writers who are subsequently published by less intrepid big publishers. Without us means that “progress” will be only the growing pile of backward-glancing and commercial writing published by the Big Six.

    All economies are complex systems. Publishing is a system within that system. There are parts and wholes and they are all interconnected in ways sometimes difficult to discern. It’s critical that we understand those connections lest we snip a thread that keeps the system from collapsing into the mire of primitive and despotic societies.

    Debra Di Blasi
    Publisher-in-Chief
    Jaded Ibis Productions / Jaded Ibis Press

    • i’m sorry, but nobody here said that artists should work for free. in fact, i don’t know anyone who says that. and i’m a vocal opponent of copyright. i also pay artists for their work. 100–200 € a year (i’m a student, and i come from a relatively poor family). i value what they do, i like them to continue and move forward with their art. i don’t need any more reason to pay them.

      you say that being an artist has became harder, and i think this is true in many cases. but copyright coercion has steadily became more powerful, especially in the last decade. so these numbers are most certainly not an indicator that copyright helps artist.

      but yes, i oppose censorship, including copyright. nobody has the right to stop people exchanging a piece of information. and this is what copyright efforts are about, they don’t make (or intend to make) anyone value art more, they don’t intend any kind of fairness. it’s just about monopolizing the distribution of a piece of information.
      and while for your experience this may all sound abstract and philosophic, but for me, as an internet citizen, it is a very real part of my everyday life.
      if they can could stop me from sending or receiving a particular artwork, they could stop my from sending or receiving any information.
      when i pay artists, i make sure that a great majority of the money goes directly to the artist. and that none of it ever goes to someone who tries to destroy our newly gained opportunity of free communication. first and foremost: the copyright industry.

    • Intellectual property in the abstract has the curious characteristic that it is worthless unless it is transmitted. Political and economic constructions of concrete intellectual property can be judged on their success in promoting that value-creating transmission.

      Unglue.it is an addition to existing constructions intended to promote transmission by rewarding creators. We’d love to see if Jaded Ibis Press can make use of Unglue.it to create more read ink and less red ink.

  43. […] Amazon Payments has announced that they will no longer process pledge payments for Unglue.it, a website which supports crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for specific, already-published books.  You can see a response here http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/why-im-not-mad-at-amazon.html.&nbsp; […]

  44. I run a marketplace called Gittip.com: https://www.gittip.com/about/

    I launched two months ago and am already on my third payment processor. I started with Samurai (from FeeFighters), but they let me down big-time: http://blog.gittip.com/post/25565694263/how-not-to-get-acquired

    Next I tried Stripe, but they politely asked me to leave. Stripe is absolutely gorgeous, but you’re not really supposed to use them for a marketplace. :-(

    I was casting about for options and was leaning towards a DIY approach with Braintree, when I was approached by Balanced Payments, which is specifically for marketplaces. Their product is nowhere near as beautiful as Stripe’s (none are), but it’s solid, and their customer care is strong. I’ve actually got a weird symbiosis going with Balanced that is turning out to be pretty interesting and mutually beneficial. Here’s a post about it: http://blog.gittip.com/post/28351995405/open-partnerships, and here’s lots of background leading up to the decision: https://github.com/whit537/www.gittip.com/issues/67. My favorite thing about Balanced is their willingness to operate transparently, out in the open. They “get” openness, which is a core value for me.

    Bitcoin and Dwolla are interesting options. Here’s the state of our conversation with Dwolla: https://github.com/whit537/www.gittip.com/issues/65. And here’s where we’re at with Bitcoin: https://github.com/whit537/www.gittip.com/issues/14. Given their current state of adoption, I see both as interesting extras to support beyond a basic credit card + ACH flow.

  45. I run a marketplace called Gittip.com: https://www.gittip.com/about/

    I launched two months ago and am already on my third payment processor. I started with Samurai (from FeeFighters), but they let me down big-time: http://blog.gittip.com/post/25565694263/how-not-to-get-acquired

    Next I tried Stripe, but they politely asked me to leave. Stripe is absolutely gorgeous, but you’re not really supposed to use them for a marketplace. :-(

    I was casting about for options and was leaning towards a DIY approach with Braintree, when I was approached by Balanced Payments, which is specifically for marketplaces. Their product is nowhere near as beautiful as Stripe’s (none are), but it’s solid, and their customer care is strong. I’ve actually got a weird symbiosis going with Balanced that is turning out to be pretty interesting and mutually beneficial. Here’s a post about it: http://blog.gittip.com/post/28351995405/open-partnerships, and here’s lots of background leading up to the decision: https://github.com/whit537/www.gittip.com/issues/67. My favorite thing about Balanced is their willingness to operate transparently, out in the open. They “get” openness, which is a core value for me.

    Bitcoin and Dwolla are interesting options. Here’s the state of our conversation with Dwolla: https://github.com/whit537/www.gittip.com/issues/65. And here’s where we’re at with Bitcoin: https://github.com/whit537/www.gittip.com/issues/14. Given their current state of adoption, I see both as interesting extras to support beyond a basic credit card + ACH flow.

    • Thanks for your detailed comments! We’ve been looking into a lot of these same options ourselves, both prototyping code & talking to the companies. It’s helpful to have your input on how you went through the same process.

  46. […] história é inusitada e foi contada no blogue da empresa de crowdfunding: segundo os administradores do Unglue.it, o sistema de pagamento virtual contratado pela plataforma […]

  47. […] Unglue.it在一篇因應這則新聞所發表的部落格文章中,再度向支持者們重申,他們正在想辦法找到新的付帳方法(Unglue.it在和Amazon簽約之前正在和Indiegogo的付帳服務供應商Paypal交涉),也呼籲支持者鼓勵更多人註冊Unglue.it的服務,好提高網站的可見度以及權利著作權持有人的信心。 […]

  48. […] avec étonnement ces années de monopole exercées par Amazon dans le monde des ebooks.SOURCE : http://blog.unglue.it/2012/08/09/open-thread-amazon-forces-unglue-it-to-suspend-crowdfunding-for-cre…VN:F [1.9.20_1166]please wait…Note : 0.0/10 (0 votes) Ces articles vous plairont également […]

  49. […] I’ve written to unglue.it to see what the options are there.  Their operations are currently suspended, but I’m hoping (as are they) that they will be able to […]

  50. […] Amazon forces Unglue.it to Suspend Crowdfuning for Creative Commons eBooks […]

  51. […] silver lining behind our Amazon Payments thunderstorm is that over the past year, some new payments alternatives have emerged. We got red-carpet […]

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