Can unglue.it succeed? Quirky initial selections raise questions

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I think unglue.it is a great idea, but after seeing their first selections I must admit that I’m a bit skeptical about their success.  The thing that will make unglue.it work is selecting books that readers want to read and that are unavailable in any form.  Let’s take a look at their initial selections:

Riverwatch, by Joseph Nassis: this book is available from Amazon in hardback for $19.95 and in Kindle format for $3.99.  Why on earth would I pledge money to get an unglued copy when I can buy it for only $4?

6-321, by Michael Laser: again, this is available new on Amazon for $13 and used for $0.01.  No ebook version is available, but is is obscure enough that I couldn’t really care.

Love Like Gumbo, by Nancy Rawles: available in new paperback for $4.75 from Amazon and used for $0.01. Must admit I’ve never heard of it.

Budding Reader Book Set 1: Cat, by Melinda Thompson: this is available from Amazon in Kindle format for $9.99 and has been optimized, so the blurb says, for larger screens.  No reason to pledge on this one.

Oral Literature in Africa, by Ruth H. Finnegan: this is perhaps the most interesting of the lot.  Available from Amazon, used, for $20 in paperback and $36 in hardback.  I’d probably buy the paperback before I pledged any money.

Unglue.it’s initial selections are, to me, rather quirky and are all available for Amazon at reasonable prices. Two of them are even in Kindle editions! Admitedly some of these books are from used book dealers, but if I want one of these I can get it with one click of my mouse – and at a reasonable price, even including shipping.  Why should I pledge money for something like this? Maybe I’m missing something about the concept as a whole, but it doesn’t seem to me that unglue.it is bringing much to the table as yet.

 

9 Comments on Can unglue.it succeed? Quirky initial selections raise questions

  1. Paul, If you look at these campaigns from the point of view of “what do I get?”, of course the answer is just buy it on amazon. Let’s overlook the fact that a library can’t get digital versions at any price. But there probably ARE books that you would support out of love if nothing else. And so the question is, how do you get the attention of the rightsholders for THOSE books to allow you to support creative commons versions. The answer is, you need to start somewhere. You need to support the concept, maybe with just a dollar or two. And then you need to mobilize the other readers who love the same book, and you need to get the author to go along with it. Sorry its not easier! We have a steep uphill battle ahead of us, that’s for sure!- Eric

  2. To expand on the “what do I get?” point a bit — if you’d pay $4 to get the book for yourself — would you pay $4 (or even a little more) to get it for everyone on earth?

  3. I’m with Paul. Everybody asks “What do I get out of it‽” Even PBS understands this with their fund raising. For a pledge of $25 you get a CD. For $50 you get the DVD. They constantly tell you how much they need your help. how it’s not a $25 CD, how your contributions make a difference. unglue.it is a big head scratcher. I believe they fail to sell to the visitor exactly why the visitor should participate. The offerings are obscure. The site is unclear. Is it kickstarter for eBooks? Am I buying a book for myself? Too much work to figure out. The visitor is gone.

  4. The problem is that I don’t know who the audience is.

    It’s not me, because I can get the book elsewhere (at least with the current selections).

    Is it libraries? If so, they don’t have the money to pledge for books – and do they even want, or need, the books selected.

    Is it a charity for authors?

    It’s unclear why I should pledge for a book. Pledge money to make a book I’ve never heard of available? Not likely. First, because I’ve never heard of the book. Second, because even if I’m altruistic why should I trust your judgement that the world needs, and wants, the book.

    The concept seemed fine when it was in the planning stages, but now that it is implemented I just find it confusing.

  5. @Douglas: All the campaigns do offer a variety of premiums for your pledge, in fact.

    Thanks for the feedback on what doesn’t make sense — I’m working to improve clarity, and hearing what’s confusing to new viewers helps tremendously.

  6. Paul,

    You’re right, if we can’t offer you books that you’ve heard of, it won’t work in the long run. But give us a year or so. In the short run, things happen slower than you expect. In the long run, things change more than we can imagine.

    Eric

  7. This post and the replies from Eric have helped me understand the plan here. I agree that it’s ambitious, and I was surprised at the campaign goals set for the first five books. But it makes sense to me that this is a game with a long time frame, and the overall goal of letting some books loose form the bonds of copyright while compensating authors is very appealing to me as a concept. How it plays out on the specific campaigns will tell the tale.

    I have an interview scheduled with Eric Hellman May 29 for the June 1 episode of Kindle Chronicles. We’ll have lots to discuss!

  8. Also, amazon content is riddled with DRM, so for people who take an ethical stand against such a hideous feature, even a .01 $ book from amazon is not an option.

  9. For myself personally, in the order they occur to me:
    1) I would gladly pay a premium for a non-DRMed book vs a Kindle book;
    2) Amazon’s shipping costs to my country are often the cost of a new paperback in addition to the cost of the book;
    3) I’m happy (and fortunate to sometimes be able) to pay extra to benefit others and to support the model to help it grow;
    4) I can choose to pledge as little as $1 if I like, which is better than any other deal available to me. (I do need to investigate though whether it’d be more cost-effective to Unglue.it to pledge more for a single title vs pledging less for multiple titles.)

    I liked the initial selection – despite the challenges I imagine are inherent in getting people to sign on to an experiment it got a good mixture of different target audiences.

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