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 .


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.


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.


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!


Buy-to-Unglue Test Campaign: Flatland


After a lot of hard work, we’re now ready for some real-world testing of “Buy-to -Unglue“. We’re offering an epub of the public domain classic, Flatland

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!

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Stefan Müller and “Complex Predicates”

stefan-muellerWe asked author Stefan Müller to tell us a little about his book Complex Predicates and why he wants to unglue it. As of October 15th, the campaign is at 29% and is definitely worth supporting.

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.

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A New Kind of Ungluing Campaign

ungluitcoinBack 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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. How long should the campaign last? If a book doesn’t sell, can the campaign be called off?
  4. 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.


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