Start-Up Unglue.it ‘Unglues’ First Book After Raising $7,500

Proponents of free e-books for all struck a victory today — albeit a small one.

Kickstarter-like start-up Unglue.it announced that it had successfully raised $7,500 through crowd-sourcing to pay the rights-holder to Ruth Finnegan’s 1970 work Oral Literature in Africa to issue an e-book edition for free with a creative commons attribution license and no digital rights management. Meaning, very soon, UK-based publisher Open Book Publishers, the rights-holder in this case, will publish the e-book and upload it to the Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library, so anyone with an internet connection can download it, read it and share it as much as they want.

According to a statement from the start-up, 259 supporters pledged a total of $7,578 to pay Open Book Publishers to allow the work to be published. Of that money, 6% goes to the start-up, around 3% goes to the credit card and online transaction companies that handled each transaction (depending on the company) and the rest goes to the rights-holder, according to Eric Hellman, president of Gluejar Inc., the company behind the start-up.

How the publisher obtains the rights or compensates the author is a matter between those parties, said Hellman.

Now that the campaign is closed, at midnight tonight, the contributors’ accounts will be charged and Unglue.it will hold onto the money until Open Book Publishers uploads a valid e-book file onto the Internet Archive, at which point the publisher will be paid, according to Hellman.

Unglue.it launched with five campaigns but Oral Literature in Africa is the only one to have at this point achieved 10% of its goal. Joseph Nassise’s Riverwatch, the next most-successful campaign, has reached 6% of its goal so far.

When the site was launched, Oral History immediately separated itself from the pack as the most popular of the books to be unglued. A Tweet about the effort from the pop band Weezer, which has nearly 900,000 followers helped push the campaign over the top. The campaign garnered about a fifth of the total in its final 24 hours.

At Unglue.it, users can pledge money to unglue books, leave comments on campaign pages, start campaigns or suggest books to be unglued.

Related: E-Book Library Lending Rises, Publishing Industry Grapples With Change

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