I’ve-never-heard-of-it-either ebook site Unglue.it has, as Paid Content’s Laura Hazard Owen writes, “hit a bump after Amazon Payments pulled support for crowdfunding accounts.” Owen’s report says that Unglue.it “aims to release ebooks into the Creative Commons through crowdfunding,” and it’s easy at first glance—or second or third—to assume that Amazon is sneakily trying to make a competitor’s life difficult. However, an Amazon spokesperson told Owens that “Unglue.it’s model is not the same as some other crowdfunding services” and doesn’t, in Amazon’s opinion, let Amazon meet certain financial regulations (they’re not specific as to what those are).
I can’t figure out what’s different about Unglue.it’s approach to handling money that’s different from Kickstarter, but I wonder if it’s actually the business model itself that’s somehow a red flag. Unlike Kickstarter, Unglue.it doesn’t want to help people to raise money to create things—what they want to do is drive campaigns to get existing books released as free ebooks with Creative Commons licenses by raising money to pay rights holders. The single successfully unglued book is Oral Literature in Africa, a well-regarded but long out of print work. If you go to Unglue.it’s home page, though, their “Top Ungluing Campaigns” box features titles like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or A Brief History of Time, which don’t have campaigns associated with them at all. They’re just books people wish would be unglued. Hey, I wish I had a BMW M5 that came with a debit card that magically gave me 50% off my gas purchases. I can’t decide whether Unglue.it is just being quixotic by presenting them the way they do, or kind of disingenuous.