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The 2012 LITA National Forum started yesterday with an engaging keynote by Eric Hellman, formerly of OCLC, Openly Informatics, and more citation linking projects than I can count. Eric’s new venture is Unglue.It (, which presents an interesting new approach to funding e-book publication.

The talk went through a number of factors related to the economics of e-books and how they affect libraries. A couple of notable points: 4 of the big 6 publishers in the U.S. will not sell e-books to libraries at all; and the potential effect on retail sales means e-book publishers can/will only support library lending if they make the e-book lending process sufficiently INconvenient for the user. In other words, force the library to irritate the users enough, and the users will just go buy their own copy.

Unglue.IT’s model is to approach rights holders, agree on a cost for publishing a book with a Creative Commons license (they support multiple flavors of CC license), and then hold an online pledge drive to raise that amount, NPR-style. The hipper way to put it is that they’re crowd-funding e-books for the public common.

The first book out of the gate was Oral Literature in Africa, a 1970 work considered seminal in the field, long out of print, and notably unavailable in any form anywhere in Africa. It is now available as a free download.

Unglue.It is in between online payment handlers at the moment, but when they are up and running again, we’ll have a chance to fund the publication of So You Want To Be a Librarian, by one L. Pressley! (No date yet announced for I Wanted to Be…A Lumberjack! by T. Dowling)