“As of the end of June, the Unglue.it database of free ebooks included 95,181 titles. We should be over 100,000 by the end of the year. Of these, 61,941 come from Project Gutenberg and 28,708 from the Directory of Open Access Books; 4,532 from other sources
4.83 million ebooks have been downloaded from Unglue.it; we’re currently on a 3 million per year pace….
We’re pleased to announce The Free Ebook Foundation Open Access Monographs Fund….”
“In my post about the value of Open Access for books, I suggested that usage statistics (circulation, downloads, etc.) are a useful proxy for the value that books generate for their readers. The logical conclusion is that the largest amount of value that can be generated from opening of the backlist comes from the books that are most used, the “all-stars” of the library, not the discount rack or the discards. If libraries are to provide funding for Open Access backlist books, shouldn’t they focus their resources on the books that create the most value?
The question of course, is how the library community would ever convince publishers, who have monopolies on these books as a consequence of international copyright laws, to convert these books to Open Access. Although some sort of statutory licensing or fair-use carve-outs could eventually do the trick, I believe that Open Access for a significant number of “backlist All-Stars” can be achieved today by pushing ALL the buttons available to supporters of Open Access. Here’s where the Open Access can learn from the game (and business) of baseball….
Open Access should be an All-Star game for backlist books. We need to create community-based award programs that recognize and reward backlist conversions to OA. If the world’s libraries want to spend $50,000 on backlist physics books, for example, isn’t it better to spend it on the the Mike Trout of physics books than on a team full of discount-rack replacement-level players? …
If you doubt that “All-Star Open Access” could work, don’t discount the fact that it’s also the right thing to do. Authors of All-Star backlist books want their books to be used, cherished and remembered. Libraries want books that measurably benefit the communities they serve. Foundations and governmental agencies want to make a difference. Even publishers who look only at their bottom lines can structure a rights conversion as a charitable donation to reduce their tax bills.
And did I mention that there could be Gala Award Celebrations? We need more celebrations, don’t you think? ”
“Can a book be more valuable if it’s free? How valuable? To whom? How do we unlock this value? …
Recently there’s been increased interest in academic communities around Open Access book publishing and in academic book relicensing (adding an Open Access License to an already published book). Both endeavors have been struggling with the central question of how to value an open access book. The uncertainty in OA book valuation has led to many rookie mistakes among OA stakeholders. For example, when we first started Unglue.it, we assumed that reader interest would accelerate the relicensing process for older books whose sales had declined. But the opposite turned out to be true. Evidence of reader interest let rights holders know that these backlist titles were much more valuable than sales would indicate, thus precluding any notion of making them Open Access. Pro tip: if you want to pay a publisher to make a books free, don’t publish your list of incredibly valuable books! …
First, consider the book’s reader. The value created is the reader’s increased knowledge, understanding and sometimes, sheer enjoyment. The fact of open access does not itself create the value, but removes some of the barriers which might suppress this value. It’s almost impossible to quantify the understanding and enjoyment from books; but “hours spent reading” might be a useful proxy for it.
Next consider a book’s creator. While a small number of creators derive an income stream from their books, most academic authors benefit primarily from the development and dissemination of their ideas. In many fields of inquiry, publishing a book is the academic’s path to tenure. Educators (and their students!) similarly benefit. In principle, you might assess a textbook’s value by measuring student performance….”