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.
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!”