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Inside Neverending Search crowdfunding ebooks

unglue (v. t.) 2. To make a digital book free to read and use, worldwide.
unglue (v. t.) 4. For an author or publisher, to accept a fixed amount of money from the public for its unlimited use of an ebook.

The crowdfunding of books is a new type of cause and it may allow us in libraries to ensure that unglued books reach broad audiences., a new model for ebook distribution, launched this week.

Eric Hellman, President of Gluejar, would like to see individuals and institutions collaborate to make their favorite ebooks available to the world through crowdfunding.

Here how it works. asks users to suggest and vote on already published books they would like to see unglued.  It then works with the rights holders of books–authors, publishers, etc–to determine fair compensation for releasing a free, legal edition of their already-published books, under Creative Commons licensing, to create a completely free and open ebook edition.

If things work as planned, folks pledge. When the target amount is reached, pays the rights holders and issues an unglued digital edition, free for all to read and share.

Donors may choose to pledge and support a campaign.  Credit cards are charged only if the campaign reaches its goal price.  For rights holders–authors, publishers, etc.–starting a campaign is  free. For more information, see the FAQ on Campaigns and the FAQ for Rights Holders.

When a title gets unglued, copyright holders retain their rights and select to assign an additional non-exclusive Creative Commons license for the work.  Rights holders may continue to sell print and electronic versions and license derivative works–for example translations and film versions.

So, what would motivate an author to unglue? lists several reasons:
  • To publicize their other books, gain new fans, or otherwise increase the value of an author’s brand.
  • To get income from books that are no longer in print.
  • To advance a cause, add to the public conversation, or increase human knowledge.
  • To leave a legacy that enriches everyone, now and in the future.
  • To have a digital strategy that pays for itself, even if they don’t have expertise in producing ebooks.
At the time of the May 17th launch, five active campaigns were listed and potential titles for ungluing included The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, To Kill A Mockingbird, and A Brief History of Time.
Hellman, who formerly worked with OCLC, is depending on libraries to spread the word.
I followed the Google Books settlement with interest and was determined to figure out how libraries could manage in world where everyone wanted ebooks. We want ebooks to be distributed by libraries without restriction.
What types of books would be most ripe for ungluing?  Hellman told me:
Trade books, for example, that have exhausted their commercial value.  Most books see their largest sales in the first year, but copyright lasts 75.  If we can buy out the value, it’s a win-win for everyone.  So instead of getting 75 years of tiny royalty checks, the authors gets a more substantial check up front, with the rights holder deciding on what the fee should be based on market dynamics. is for campaigns and crowdfunding.  It is not a discovery portal for searching for free titles  Internet Archive will house all unglued books.
Hellman is counting on librarians to use the metadata from unglued titles to enhance their collections and share broader ebook holdings with their communities.
Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Unglued is a great concept that will attract many in the reading community. supports this wonderful ebook initiative!

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