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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to nominate a book, leave a comment.
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!
We want to make sure everything works well, fix any bugs, and show our publishing, author and library partners what the new world of ebooks can look like. Please let us know if you’re a publisher, author, or library and you want to help us unglue some books!
For the test we spent some time with the Google and Gutenberg scans of Flatland to produce a clean epub file. And we plan on doing some special things with it in the next couple of weeks. We’ve set the pricing so we we’ll make just a few cents per sale; between our payment provider, Stripe, and our license embedding vendor, Booxtream, we’ll barely net a first class stamp. If you choose to help us iron out all the kinks and buy a copy, we’ll be eternally grateful to you; you might even get a special badge! (You can get the Google or Gutenberg version instead, if you prefer.)
What you can do with the new features:
- Join a library
- Buy an individual license
- Buy a license for a library you’ve joined
- Download and read a book with embedded license
- Watch the ungluing date advance
As always, we welcome your suggestions, criticisms, bug reports, and general nitpicking. Please use the feedback button on the right side of any Unglue.it page. We already have a long list of improvements to make, but there’s nothing better that real-world usage to guide us. We’re so thankful for the support you’ve given us over the past year and a half.
If you’ve not read Flatland, now is a great time to do so!
Q: Could you tell us a bit about who you are?
Müller: I am professor for German and General Linguistics at the Freie Universität Berlin. I mainly work on German and Germanic languages, but also have projects on Mandarin Chinese, Persian and other languages.
I love books and I think all scientific books should be OA. Most of my books are accessible for free now, Complex Predicates is the last one that is missing.
My personal view on OA can be found here: http://hpsg.fu-berlin.de/~stefan/Pub/oa-jlm.html
In order to move a bit forward on the road to OA I founded Language Science Press http://langsci-press.org/ together with Martin Haspelmath.
Q: Why might libraries or others be interested in this book and who are the potential readers?
Müller: It is a linguistics book that will be useful for syntacticians and morphologists working on the German language. It has several chapters dealing with different phenomena of German grammar and each of these chapters consists of three sections: Phenomenon, Analysis, and Alternatives. The phenomenon is described in theory neutral terms, so this should be useful for every linguist working on German or a language that has the same phenomenon. The descriptive part relates to theoretic proposals in that it discusses claims about impossibilities of certain structures. Corpus data is used to show that these structures are possible.
The analysis section provides a detailed and formalized analysis of the phenomena in the framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG). The analyses are internally consistent which is proven by a computer implementation (testable from the ungluing web page for the book).
The alternatives sections discuss alternative proposals from HPSG. Other frameworks like Government & Binding, LFG, and Construction Grammar are discussed in Chapter 7.
Since phenomena like passive, causatives, resultative constructions, depictive secondary predication and particle verbs exist in a lot of languages, researchers working on other languages will find the book useful too.
Q: What will be done with the money raised?
Müller: The money will be passed on to CSLI Publications. My contract transfers the rights back to me, once all copies are sold. By transferring the equivalent amount of money to CSLI Pubs, I can get the publication rights reverted and turn the book Open Access.
CSLI Publications is very different from other academic publishers. CSLI Pubs is a one person enterprise. It is not profit oriented. The goal is to publish great books and they indeed published a lot! CSLI Pubs is very important in the branch of linguistics I am working in. So ungluing this book not just helps the scientists who want to work with the book but also a great publisher who works for us not for share holders or other company owners.
Back in May, I wrote that we’re working on a new version of unglue.it, designed to broaden the range of books we can unglue. The main concept we’re adding is “Buy-to-Unglue”.
The basic idea behind “Buy To Unglue” is that the rights holder sets a sales revenue target, and when the target is met, the book becomes unglued. But the details of how to make this kind of campaign work are a bit tricky.
Here are some issues we’ve had to think about:
- What happens towards the end of a campaign? For example if a book is priced at $50 and the sales target is $6,000, will the last few copies sell, or will people wait for someone else to put the book over the top?
- What happens if the rights holder wants to change the per-copy price? Should they be allowed to raise the price? should they be able to lower the price for a week?
- How long should the campaign last? If a book doesn’t sell, can the campaign be called off?
- If a campaign has a limited term, what happens in the last few weeks? If the campaign fails, does the ungluing campaign revenue have any effect? Should the purchasers/campaign supporters get some sort of refund?
We struggled with triggers and conditions, thresholds and price limits, contingent payments and holdbacks, but it seemed to be getting too complicated. Finally, we came up with the idea of the “Dated Creative Commons” license and things started to fall into place. A Dated Creative Commons license is just a Creative Commons license with an effective date in the future. What’s hard for us to know is whether this idea translates well, whether it’s easy for non-copyright-nerds to understand.
So this is where you can really help out. I’ll try to explain it, and you tell us if it makes sense to you.
Let’s take the example of a $50 book and a $6000 campaign. 120 copies would need to be sold to unglue the book. Let’s suppose the rights holder is willing to give it a “Creative Commons Date” 10 years in the future. The sales campaign starts September 1, 2013, and if no copy is ever sold, The Creative Commons license goes into effect on September 1, 2023. But for every copy sold at $50, the Creative Creative Commons Date advances by 1 month. The CC Date for the first copy sold through unglue.it would be August 1 2023. The 12th copy gets a Creative Commons Date of September 2022. The 60th copy sold gets a creative commons date of September 1, 2018. and so on, until the advance of time meets the Creative Commons date, and the book becomes unglued.
If a campaign has to end short of the target, so be it. But whatever advance of the Creative Commons date has been achieved by the campaign remains in effect.
So each campaign has two core parameters, the revenue target and the initial ungluing date. The per copy price can change based on the book’s sales profile. Different versions could have different prices. Appropriate choices for the campaign parameters should be able to accommodate almost any type of book. Every purchase through unglue.it would cause a measurable, advertised advance of the Creative Commons date. Every purchase would generate immediate income for the rights holder, and immediate availability for the purchaser.
Does this make sense to you? Please let us know.
For quite a while, I’ve been concerned that libraries lack sufficient software and internet development resources to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Even things like buying an ebook from Unglue.it can require a library to make small modifications to their catalog or website. So when Andromeda wanted to some spend some of her time cofounding and cochairing the Library Code Year interest group (a joint LITA/ALCTS group ), I was all for it. The interest group ran an Introduction to Python preconference at the ALA Annual meeting this year, with about 40 attendees; and Andromeda was one of the instructors. The interest group is looking at running a hackathon at either Midwinter or Annual next year; Andromeda’s not in charge of those efforts, but she’s supporting them. Andromeda’s also been a guest lecturer at some library schools, and last week she was a guest instructor at Chattanooga Public Library’s DEV DEV <summer of code>.
So if you’re thinking about doing a coding workshop, or sponsoring a course on web development, or even if you need a code-year-coach, consider checking out what Andromeda is doing. I’ve personally learned quite a bit from her, now you’ll be able to as well.
(we distributed two different links- sorry!)