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How do you make a book free for everyone? Unglue.It

Open book, hardback books on wooden table.

Our open access news items often focus on resources related to scholarship and scholarly works, especially articles and sometimes books. There is a natural incentive for scholars to remove barriers to accessing their work, since they often wish for their research to be read as widely as possible rather than focus on selling copies for direct financial gain. But there are also programs to ethically and legally bring popular and genre literature as well as scholarly books into the public domain.

Unglue.It is a nonprofit program that works with authors and publishers to place books into the public domain by agreeing on a price and then crowdsourcing the funds to pay the rights holder to issue the book under a Creative Commons license. Once this is done an e-book version of the work can be downloaded free to the reader.

There are a variety of fundraising strategies, which include Pledge Campaigns (if enough money is pledged upfront the book is unlocked), Buy-To-Unglue (once a certain number of books are sold, the book becomes freely available), and a Thanks-For-Ungluing Campaign (the book is unlocked, but supporters can pay the creator what they wish).

Unglue.It also encourages participation by libraries through allowing them to buy licenses that support unlocking works and providing catalog records to allow patrons to discover unlocked books through their local library catalog.

The browsing catalog offers works from several genres and includes books from Project Gutenberg and the Directory of Open Access Books. The catalog currently offers over 70,000 free to download e-books in 80 languages (with a definite English language collection bias), and there is hope that the catalog will reach over 100,000 in the next two years.

Rights holders can contact Unglue.It about their work, or authors wishing to make their materials digitally available can often place preprints or even published articles on institutional repositories such as our own ISU ReD. If you wish to discuss these options further, for current or already published research, please contact Milner Library’s Scholarly Communication Team at isured@IllinoisState.edu.

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