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.


Teaching Libraries to Code

python_workshopFor 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>.

The thing is, Andromeda REALLY enjoyed helping librarians and others acquire coding skills, so much so that she’s decided to try making it her full time job. Which is not such good news for unglue.it, because Andromeda has become one of our key developers. Over the past two years she’s become a pretty good python developer to go with the javascript/css skills she started with, and she’s responsible for much of the front end (what you see) of unglue.it. The thing that has made her a star, however, has been her ability to span all the aspects of building, running, publicizing and supporting the site. She’ll still be doing contract development work for us – a good teacher has to keep her skills current – but we’ll have to get along without her constant attention. And her desire to make unglue.it a success hasn’t disappeared.

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’re working on Unglue.it 2.0


(we distributed two different links- sorry!)


We’re working on Unglue.it 2.0

It’s been a year since we launched Unglue.it, so it’s appropriate to take a look at what we’ve done, and decide what to do next.

With your help, we’ve unglued three books: Oral Literature in Africa, The Third Awakening, and So You Want to Be a Librarian. With your help, we might unglue two more.

What we haven’t been able to do is attract a lot of books for ungluing. The reasons why are complex, but it’s clear that we need to make changes to the model to attract enough books to make the whole thing worth our effort.

One assumption we made at the start turned out to be wrong. We thought that lots of campaigns would be aimed at funding the conversion of print books to digital. But two years later, the conversion costs have come way down, and most books that can be converted to digital are being converted to digital. The ones remaining have problems- either they have really difficult rights issues or they’re just not worth converting.

Because of that assumption, our campaigns haven’t made use of the most powerful tool that an ebook-crowdfunding campaign can have- the ebook itself. So we’ve been talking to publishers and authors about a new type of campaign, which uses the book itself as the fundraising tool. We’ve been calling this “buy-to-unglue” but we’re not sure that’s the best way to describe it. The basic idea is that after N copies of the book are sold, an unglued edition is released.

So far, the reaction has been really positive, but there are a lot of details to work out. How to make it work for libraries, for example. The buy-to-unglue model will help us address the needs of new books and new authors, and we’re really excited about that.  We think that the existing campaign model will eventually prove its value, too.

We don’t have a timetable yet, and nothing has been set in stone, but we’d really like to hear your ideas.

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De Gruyter title list

If you subscribe to our newsletter, you already know that Berlin-based academic publisher De Gruyter is offering 100 books for potential ungluing.

There aren’t campaigns yet — that’s up to you! We’ll run campaigns for whichever books have the most support. You can tell us which books you support by adding them to your wishlist. (And use the sharing options to get your friends to support your favorite books, too.)

You can see all the De Gruyter books Unglue.it knows about (both these, and any others that ungluers have wishlisted or searched for in the past) at Unglue.it. But for your convenience, we’re also listing the hundred (technically, 104) books here, with links to their Unglue.it work pages.

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Making Unglue.it Better

The last month or so has seen a lot of development work on Unglue.it. You may have noticed some of these things, but I thought it would be good to make a list.

  • With the just-announced participation of De Gruyter, we needed to work on our publisher pages. Take a look: https://unglue.it/pid/popular/4311
  • Login and account creation needed a lot of improvement. As a small example, if you’re not logged in when you click on a pledge button or a “login to add” button the website remembers what you were doing while you log in.
  • The search now preferentially returns unglue.it campaign books. (No brainer!)
  • You can now select your avatar from among twitter, facebook and gravatar pictures. If you’re not familiar with Gravatar, it’s a convenient way to maintain your identity across the web. 
  • We’ve added ways to contact the authors and publishers associated with unglue.it campaigns. They also wanted better ways to send you thank you notes and private messages, so we added some notifications for that. As always, you can use the website to customize your notification preferences.
  • If you’re a structured data enthusiast, take note that our web pages now include schema.org metadata!
  • Campaign pages now have a neat little thermometer that shows you the campaign’s progress.
  • Last but not least, we have a new homepage design. We always thought of the graphic that lived there as a placeholder, but never had time to make it easier to explore the site.

We have a lot more work to do, and we’re very grateful to ungluers who have taken the time to report bugs and make suggestions. Thank you!

Unglue.it ♥ libraries

We feel great about all the support we’ve gotten from the library community.  It was fun meeting, and catching up with, so many librarians at our table in the exhibit hall at the American Library Association Midwinter conference in Seattle.  (And, let’s be honest, it was also great that some of you brought me snacks.  Thanks!)

Some librarians have asked us what they can do (beyond supporting our active campaigns, of course) to advance the mission.  Now we have a list!  There are a lot of things libraries are uniquely positioned to do: for instance, adding unglued ebooks to their collections, educating the public on the challenges of ebook licensing and the benefits of Creative Commons licensing, and making sure unglued ebooks get properly cataloged.  For the whole list of ways you can help, check out the Unglue.it ♥ libraries page.

(Now if only I could get another one of those maple syrup crepes…)


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