June 21st, 2012 | Published in commentary
If you spend enough time paying attention to the evolution of e-books, a curious trend emerges. It seems that readers and publishers are at odds. Readers say that they want to be able to read books on whatever device they want once they buy it, publishers say that they will lose their hats if their books aren’t locked down with DRM or if they were willing to sell to libraries. All of this seems to ignore the whole part about readers wanting to read books and publishers wanting to give them books to read. Of course there are exceptions to this, but they are just that, exceptions.
Yesterday, however, I ran across something that gives me some hope, a site called unglue.it. The idea behind unglue.it is that people want to read books and are willing to pay for them and that rights holders (publishers, authors, and estates, mostly) want to receive money for their books. How it works is that it negotiates with the rights holders for a particular work to determine a fair price, then raises that money through crowdfunding (similar to kickstarter) and pais the rights holder. In return, a Creative Commons licensed ebook edition is released, available for free, to everyone on every device with no DRM.
Of course, this won’t be a panacea for the dysfunctional ebook landscape, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.