Monday, July 02, 2012

Unglue.it is struggling to find backers for public-domain eBook crowdfunding

On TeleRead, Chris Matthews writes about Unglue.it, a new website that uses crowdfunding in order to fund making new and out-of-print titles available for free, without DRM. Matthews read a very enthusiastic article about Unglue.it at the site BoingBoing, but when he dug into the story, he found that it was far less positive. BoingBoing wrote that one of the site's participants, Joseph Nassise, dropped the funding goal for his book Riverwatch from $25,000 to $15,000 in order to make the campaign successful. Matthews learned that the reason he did so was because the campaign was far below his target, and even after dropping the funding goal on June 12th, he failed to achieve it by the deadline.

The three "active projects" on the site, as of this writing, are at 8%, 1% and 2% of their goals. Only one title, a "classic" out-of-print title called Oral Literature in Africa, has made its goal so far, and that's likely because there's still a strong market in used copies of the book.

The only way that Unglue.it can succeed is if it can attract major authors who are willing to put titles that have reverted to them into the public domain for a flat fee. There's very little interest in paying to put relatively unknown works into the public domain, especially when some of those works (such as Riverwatch) are already available as inexpensive eBooks. Most authors would rather see their out-of-print titles go back into print in order to earn more royalties.
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