A few weeks ago I was contacted by Boris Hänßler, a science and technology journalist, about my participation in Unglue.it. He was writing a piece for Zeit Online, the online edition of the weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, and he wanted to ask me a few questions. After determining that this was indeed a legit email, I replied that I would be happy to help.
Shortly after the piece, which thanks to the wonders of Google Translate I was at least able to get the gist of, was posted, Unglue.it reported in their newsletter that over 100 German ungluers created accounts. (And how cool is it that I got a mention in that newsletter, too?!)
Anyway, I was very glad to be contacted, and writing this post now reminds me that I need to go make a contribution to the latest Unglue.it campaign for Obama Search Words. It sounds like an intriguing work, to say the least.
I am including my full email Q&A with Boris below.
I believe I first learned about Unglue.it from my librarian social media contacts.
2. What motivated you to participate?
I think Unglue.it’s model of crowdfunding campaigns to release creative commons ebooks has a lot of potential to change the way ebooks are released and distributed. Though I love my Kindle, the current Amazon-dominated model is unsustainable, and current systems for library lending of ebooks are even more broken. We need to stop pretending like ebooks are the same as print books.
3. Can I ask you which books you “unglued”?
I pledged to each of the five initial campaigns, including the successful campaign for Oral Literature in Africa. At this point, however, the success of Unglue.it’s funding and distribution model is more important than the content of the unglued works.
4. Do you think the prices for the current books are fair / good?
I trust that Unglue.it did their due diligence in setting fair prices when negotiating the details of the campaigns with rights holders – otherwise I don’t think the authors would have gone forward.
5. Isn’t there a risk, that authors or publishers just want to make money with books that do not sell well any longer?
I do see this as a potential risk. My hope is that the market won’t allow this to happen too much. I think ungluing campaigns will only succeed if there is demand for the ebook. If the book wasn’t selling well in print, or if generally there isn’t much interest in the title, this should mitigate the risk.
6. As you work in a library – do you think libraries will benefit from creative commons ebooks? Do you know if there is a demand for them?
Absolutely. A recent Pew study
found that awareness of library ebook lending services is low, but that people were very interested in learning more about it. Libraries could actually do more than just lend unglued titles – they could serve as distributors of them, and help the public, scholars, etc., learn more about the availability of creative commons titles. This model would also solve many of the frustrations that current library ebook borrowers experience (as reported in the Pew study) – unavailable titles, long wait lists, incompatible formats, restrictive DRM, etc. Unglue.it could potentially create a great collection of open access content for libraries to make freely available to their patrons.
7. What do you generally think about creative commons? Isn’t there a risk for artists, that people get more and more used to get books for free and are not willing to pay any longer? (there is currently a strong discussion about this question in Germany)
The internet has majorly transformed the way all types of content – books, music, movies, journal articles, etc. – are created, distributed, and consumed. To be sure, this has led to many creators not being fairly compensated for their work. That is why I think Unglue.it is so promising – it presents a win-win for all parties, including rights holders. Society is still figuring out how to do this – how to make works widely available in the new world of the internet, while still supporting the livelihoods of artists and authors. Unglue.it represents an out-of-the-box solution to this problem, and one that I hope continues to succeed.