Embedding “Thanks for Ungluing” Links in E-Books

One of the difficulties we’ve noticed with “Thanks for Ungluing” is that the “Ask” comes at the wrong time. When you click the “Read It Now” button on the Unglue.it website, we let rights holders request your support for their work. You can go ahead and download the book anyway, but even if you don’t contribute, the hope has been that you’ll like the book and return later with to thank the creators.

The best time to ask you for support is probably after you’ve read and loved the book, and then you might have forgotten where it came from. Or maybe a friend sent you the book, or maybe you downloaded it from a library repository. In that case, a “thanks” link at the front or back of the book would be really handy!

What we’ve found, though, is that many authors and publishers find it difficult to provide such links. The big booksellers, like Apple and Amazon, don’t permit links like that in their bookstores, even when the book is free. Many of the pdf creation tools don’t export formatted hyperlinks. So we decided to help our rights holders do it, with software in the Unglue.it webserver. The author’s “ask” is in the front of the ebook.

So go ahead and download these books- you don’t have to worry about thanking the rights holders until the books have proven their worth, and you can make a contribution that’s commensurate with that value.

“Zero Sum Game” is an Exponential Transformation

Zero Sum Game

Zero Sum Game – SL Huang

“I’m just really good at math” is Cas Russell’s excuse for having superpowers. She’s the heroine of Zero Sum Game, SL Huang‘s debut novel. If you think about it, “being good at math” makes a lot more sense than Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider. Even if you slept through freshman biology, you probably picked up that radioactive spiders don’t give you super-powers. And how, exactly, did James Bond get his superpowers? (I’m referring of course to the Daniel Craig version of James Bond, the Bond who could calculate all the angles and fly through the air chasing after Mollaka in the opening sequence of Casino Royale. He was good at math, too!)

After the action sequences in Zero Sum Game,  James Bond seems rather lame in comparison. Don’t worry, there’s about s much math in Zero Sum Game as there are radiactive spiders in Spiderman. Huang has created a compelling superhero who is believably ordinary. Cas is a bit on the spectrum, but somehow seems like a real person even while racking up a body count that would put Bond to shame. Cas has a weakness for kids, a disdain for “cheap polymer piece-of-crap Glocks” and she doesn’t cope well with not having a case to work on.

By the end of Zero Sum Game we understand that there are several novels full of revelation ahead. It’s going to be so great.

I really enjoyed Zero Sum Game. It conveys the same paranoia about reality that we saw in Biodigital, but in a 2014 way. The writing is mature, brilliant and restrained in a way that’s very uncommon in self-published books. I would love to see it turn into a franchise. Movies, books, spin-offs, fan fiction. A giga-franchise would be even better.

Huang totally gets the possibilities of Creative Commons licensing.

I’ve licensed under Creative Commons because I don’t believe in maintaining the right to sue people who love my work enough to share it or make fan works of it. I still hope to make a living off my books . . . and I firmly believe I still can. That licensing this way will get me more readers, and that more readers will mean more revenue.
Prove me right by donating! Or, if you’re not sure you’ll like it, read it first—and if you feel you were entertained, come back and make a contribution of whatever you think the ride was worth.

I’m so thankful for the genius of the writers who are using CC licensing for their books.  What they’re doing is amazing, and we need to do our best to support them.

Non-profit “Champion of Openness” adds its first 2 CC books to Unglue.it

When Davis Erin Anderson, Community Engagement Manager at The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO), contacted me about sponsoring two “Thanks for Ungluing” campaigns for their CC-licensed book titles, I was delighted to add them to our Unglue.it catalog.

A non-profit organization located in Manhattan, METRO works to develop and maintain essential library services throughout New York City and Westchester County. METRO’s Executive Director Jason Kucsma, and Norman Jacknis is the President of the Board of Trustees.

Eric and I both thought their library-related books, an addition to their open article archives, were a perfect example of the kind of collaboration among libraries and librarians both METRO and Unglue.it are committed to supporting.

Digitization In The Real World Kwong Bor Ng and Jason Kucsma 2010 https://unglue.it/work/138132/

The Global Librarian 2013 https://unglue.it/work/138133/

When I interviewed Davis for this blog post, she described METRO as a “champion of openness.” When they decided to give their colleagues a forum to showcase their knowledge by publishing books, they thought Unglue.it was the perfect place to advertise their publications. You can read more at http://metro.org/books/.

Since its founding in 1964, METRO has grown to include more than 250 libraries, archives and museums, along with many individual members who benefit from their online and in-person training. Services offered by METRO include funding for semester-long internships for students and recent graduates, grant programs across library services, and hands-on training both in their 50-seat training center and via webinars.

METRO’s support of open culture reaches into many of their initiatives, most recently as a Digital Public Library (DPLA) collaborator. They are the site of the newly-created Empire State Digital Network, ESDN, which is also New York State’s dp.la hub. METRO is home to a Wikipedian-in-Residence who works with libraries and archives to edit content on Wikipedia using original sources. And METRO provides a network for the exchange of library materials among New York City and Westchester County library systems, vastly expanding the resources available to library users in the region.

Below is METRO’s Mission Statement:

METRO advances library and knowledge-management services in New York City, Westchester County and beyond through active collaboration, resource and knowledge sharing, strategic planning and thinking, professional development and advocacy among our members and other organizations with similar interests. In this manner, we improve the public’s access to and understanding of timely, high quality information and strengthen the role of libraries as important partners for solving individual problems, making sense of complex issues in the larger world and accessing cultural and recreational resources.

Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife Series on Unglue.it!

Pro tip for authors: don’t kill off your heroes on page one, then destroy heaven and earth 3 ways before page 150 in the first book of a series. Unless, of course, you happen to have the talent and imagination to pull off something that audacious.


Author Mur Lafferty

Which is what Mur Lafferty does successfully in Heaven, the first book in her “Afterlife” series, now available as a Creative Commons licensed ebook on Unglue.it (CC BY-NC-SA). The first 5 books in the series are all available; “Thanks for Ungluing” contributions for these books will help Mur keep the lights on while she finishes the sixth book in the series, entitled “Stones”.

Lafferty has earned a large audience as a podcaster. She has a voice you could listen to all day, whether she’d interviewing writers for Angry Robots Books or discussing the craft of writing on “I Should Be Writing“. Her daughter seems to have inherited some of this talent- she occasionally does a podcast called Princess Scientist’s Book Club.

I was a bit apprehensive about listening to the podcasts though. Lafferty’s writing voice is so original and funny that I worried her speaking voice would clash with the voice I heard in my head when I read Heaven. My fears were unfounded.

For example, “Listen” to this description:

I was sad about losing Daniel, but not as if we’d broken up. It was kind of like putting down a bag of potato chips when you knew they were empty calories, no matter how good they tasted.

You can just hear her, can’t you?

The Afterlife series doesn’t fit well into conventional genres, though I’m sure publishers have some cute name for it. It’s not science fiction or fantasy, it’s not really speculative fiction. It’s not romance either, or historical fiction, but it has elements of all of these. I’d call it crossover imaginative fiction. I wonder if that’s a real category. Whatever, I enjoyed it. Or, as much as it’s possible to enjoy an eschatological romcom.

Lafferty’s audacity as a writer carries over into a willingness to experiment with new business models. You can support her podcast through Patreon, and she’s funded the Afterlife series through Kickstarter. So you can imagine how thrilled we are to have her participating in Unglue.it.

The books are:

  • Heaven The Afterlife Series I
  • Hell The Afterlife Series II
  • Earth The Afterlife Series III
  • Wasteland The Afterlife Series IV
  • War The Afterlife Series V

We don’t yet have a way to support a group of books with a single credit card charge (it’s a story on our development tracker) but it’s better for Mur if you do one big thank you instead of 5 small one. Because she deserves a big Thanks.

Follow Mur at @mightymur


Thanks-for-Ungluing launches!

Great books deserve to be read by all of us, and we ought to be supporting the people who create these books. “Thanks for Ungluing” gives readers, authors, libraries and publishers a new way to build, sustain, and nourish the books we love.

“Thanks for Ungluing” books are Creative Commons licensed and free to download. You don’t need to register or anything. But when you download, the creators can ask for your support. You can pay what you want. You can just scroll down and download the book. But when that book has become your friend, your advisor, your confidante, you’ll probably want to show your support and tell all your friends.

We have some amazing creators participating in this launch.


John Sundman’s 1999 underground hit Acts of the Apostles, a novel about a Silicon Valley messiah, his cult following of brain hackers, and the convergence of biological and digital technologies, was the second book ever to have a Creative Commons license (The first was Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.) This book, together with the other two books in the “Mind Over Matter” series, Cheap Complex Devices and The Pains are now available for free download from Unglue.it.

Sundman’s half-new novel Biodigital is currently available exclusively through Unglue.it’s “Buy-to-Unglue” program and will earn its way to a Creative Commons license based on support from readers.  Substantially based on ActsBiodigital reimagines this tale in light of new science.

All four books are available on John’s Unglue.it publisher page.

Open Book Publishers

Open Book Publishers of Cambridge, England, is offering 2 titles from their list of academic titles in “Thanks for Ungluing”. The first is The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture, which brings together academics, librarians, entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers to address the apparent paradox whereby digital technology has made culture more accessible than ever before, while the norms regulating culture’s use – copyright and related rights – have become increasingly restrictive.

OBP’s second title, The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925: Theory of a Genre, is the only study to focus exclusively on the heyday of short story writing – the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – across French, English, Italian, Russian and Japanese writing. Focusing particularly on the stories of Guy de Maupassant, Henry James, Giovanni Verga, Anton Chekhov and Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Florence Goyet shows that these authors were able to create brilliant and successful short stories using the very simple ‘tools of brevity’ of their period.

Ungluers helped OBP to make Oral Literature in Africa and Feeding the City free to the world.

Moebius Noodles

Education is represented in “Thanks for Ungluing” by Moebius Noodles, a delightful book that helps parents teach math to preschoolers. How do you want your child to feel about math? Confident, curious and deeply connected? Then Moebius Noodles is for you. It offers advanced math activities to fit your child’s personality, interests, and needs.


Jim Bowering, Jake Hartnell

Jim and Jake graciously let us use their sci-fi novels for testing our new program. Bonus: both books are pretty mind-blowing. Jim’s Green Comet imagines … life on a comet. Jake’s 23rd Century Romance extrapolates romance into our plugged-in future.

More to come

We’ll have more “Thanks for Ungluing” books soon. Any ebook published with a Creative Commons license is eligible, so long as we can verify the rights status and the technical quality. email us at rights@gluejar.com if you have questions. We want to have a deep database of Creative Commons books, and for that we need plenty of author and publisher participation.

Please enjoy the books, and help us thank the creators for ungluing their books.


Thanks-for-Ungluing test campaign: “23rd Century Romance”

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.


Thank the creators at Unglue.it

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!”