Unglue.it is a crowdfunding platform that allows users (‘ungluers’) to contribute to the costs of publishing open access books. So far, the site has ‘unglued’ three books. The most influential of these is Ruth Finegan’s “Oral Literature in Africa“, a classic research monograph first published in 1970, which has had significant scholarly impact. The other two books are more recent and less well known: one is a 2009 guidebook about becoming a librarian, and the other is a new erotic thriller by Dennis Weiser. Unglue.it has recently announced a new deal with De Gruyter, an academic publisher, to offer 100+ titles for ungluing.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Hellman, founder of Unglue.it, about the project. Hellman is concerned about “the difficulty that libraries are having in navigating the transition [from print to digital] in a way that maintains their position and their traditional role” — providing access and discovery to the public. Because “the big six publishers have been extremely slow and reluctant to allow libraries to lend ebooks”, libraries are facing “an existential problem as to whether they will be able to continue to exist going forward.” Hellman thinks that big changes are needed, “both on the publisher side and on the library side” to enable libraries to survive and continue to provide access to books.
You can read the details of the interview on the Cultural Commons wiki, a new wiki I have started to bring together case studies of collective action from around the world.