Eric Hellman is on a mission to bring books to the masses. The founder of Gluejar, a New Jersey-based startup, is promoting a rigorous campaign to “unglue” or “make a digital book free to read and use worldwide,” thus eliminating cost barriers still felt in many poor communities. He calls this service “Unglue.it.” How does he do it, and what compelled Hellman, in an age of piracy controversies and Napster shutdowns, to promote free books?
It all began when he realized that libraries would need to completely change themselves to continue to play their important roles in our society. “With reader preferences rapidly shifting to digital ebook form along with the dropping prices and increased capability of reading platforms, libraries’ print collections are losing their importance,” says Hellman.
At the same time, the biggest trade publishers are refusing to allow libraries to lend their books without severe restrictions. “So I’ve been working on new business models for authors and publishers that admit the important role of libraries.”
Breaking Free from Amazon and Apple
At the core of Unglue.it’s philosophy is a bold step to “free” books from private hands. Hellman envisions a future where books are part of a public sector much like public radio and public television. “I would like to see Unglue.it be an important way for that to happen. It would be a tragedy if we allowed our reading and our libraries become controlled and regulated by Amazon and Apple,” says Hellman.
So How Do You Unglue a Book?
At the heart of Unglue.it is the creative commons license, a licensing agreement that enables free acces to the book worldwide. As the Unglue.it website clarifies, transferring to a CC license is not equivalent to giving up one’s copyright status, and authors retain full copyrights, as well as the ability to add further restrictions to the CC license.
Unglue.it is a crowdfunding website that works with rights holders to determine fair compensation for releasing a free and legal edition of a book. Upon agreement, a campign begins on the website to pledge money toward that sum. If the funding goals are reached, all money goes towards the rights holders, and Unglue.it then releases an unglues digital edition of the book, free to read and share with the entire world.
Why Unglue Books?
The Unglue.it website cites many reasons why the public should strive to CC license books. Here are just a few:
1. To publicize their other books, gain new fans, or otherwise increase the value of an author’s brand.
2. To get income from books that are no longer in print.
3. To have a digital strategy that pays for itself, even if they don’t have expertise in producing ebooks.
4. To advance a cause, add to the public conversation, or increase human knowledge.
5. To leave a legacy that enriches everyone, now and in the future.
Introducing the First Unglued Book!
After raising over $7000 in an ambitious campaign this past June, Unglue.it managed to garner support from nearly 300 Ungluers, and “Oral Literature in Africa” became the first ever Unglued book. Out of print for several years, the book now has a chance to live and breath again through the crowdfunding efforts. In response to this major step in Unglue.it’s success, one of team members, librarian and blogger Andromeda Yelton, wrote, “I’m going to break out the good bourbon and raise a glass of it to all of you tonight. We did this thing. We can do this thing!”