When Ruth Finnegan published Oral Literature in Africa in 1970, she was awarded an Order of the British Empire for her exhaustive and pioneering research on the history of storytelling in Africa. Unfortunately, the book was so expensive that it was largely out of reach for African readers.
Now it’s out of print, but the book and many of the audio recordings Finnegan made in her research will soon be available through unglue.it, a kickstarter-style campaign to release out-of-print books.
Unglue.it raised $7,578 from 259 supporters—mostly in the library world—to make the book available “on any device, in any format, forever.” The money will help offset the costs of producing the e-book and a digital archive of recordings and photographs taken during Finnegan’s fieldwork. In addition to the ebook, the publisher, Open Book Publishers, will produce free, downloadable pdf editions of the work.
Unglue.it has three other titles in fundraising mode: Love Like Gumbo by Nancy Rawles, a set of young reader books and the autobiography 6-321 by Michael Laser. Using the kickstarter-style model, Unglue.it is trying to raise an agreed-upon fair licensing fee to release the books under Creative Commons licensing, completely liberated from digital rights management technology.
Books are chosen by the crowd too. At the moment A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tops the wish list.
Kate Rix is an Oakland-based freelance writer. Check out her work at katerixwriter.com.