Singularity & Co. Rescues Classic SF … for Its Subscribers
I saw a post on BoingBoing the other day spotlighting Singularity & Co., an online “science fiction bookstore” (who I covered in March for TeleRead) with a goal of rescuing obscure classic SF titles and releasing them on-line. The Kickstarter project that founded it (reaching $52,276 on a $15,000 goal) stated that this would involve clearing the rights for the book and “publish[ing] the title both online and as an e-book, for little or no cost.” The BoingBoing post paraphrased this as “publish[ing] it online as a free ebook.”
This sounds like a great idea, sort of akin to the “Storyteller’s Bowl” model of publishing similar to that used by Unglue.it: ask for a certain amount of money for the content, then when you get it release the content free. There’s just one little problem: the site doesn’t actually seem to work that way—at least so far. Two books have been “rescued” so far, but not only is there no way for people who haven’t paid to subscribe to access them “for little or no cost,” there is no indication that I could find on the site when or if this will actually happen.
Now, I will try to be fair: the posts about the books (first, second) indicate that they’re beta releases, and currently only available to people who paid (via the Kickstarter or the site’s subscription forms) for early access. But there’s no indication in either of those posts when they will be released in non-beta form—or, more importantly, how.
The site’s page about “Our Big Idea” expands a little upon what was said in the Kickstarter: once its subscribers have selected a work, Singularity will “publish that work online and on all the major digital book platforms for little or no cost.” Again, no specific details yet.
The site’s subscriptions page offers three levels of subscription: $2.99 for one year of “access to every book we save,” $129.99 for lifetime e-book access, and $199.99 for one year of print books plus lifetime e-book access. That doesn’t really look to me like making books available “for little or no cost.” Sure, maybe $30 for 12 books isn’t all that much per book, but what if you only want the one book?
I expect they do intend to make the books available to all at some point, but from the point of view of someone with no interest in subscribing but possible interest in buying inexpensively and definite interest in reading free, the lack of any information at all as to when or even if that will really happen makes me feel a little bait-and-switched when I show up there expecting the free e-books they promised.
Tyler August 9, 2012 um 11:35 am
Why didn’t you just ask them instead of writing all this speculation? There is only three people working in this publishing house so it is a grass roots effort. The whole site has the word BETA after their logo so it is not in final form. I would guess that the reason that everyone doesn’t have access to the books is because it is still in BETA.
Nate Hoffelder August 9, 2012 um 11:46 am
I’m not so sure they do plan to release free copies, though I wish they’d sell them. By keeping this subscription only they’re avoiding the freeloader problem, or the temptation of some users to let others fund the platform. Given the small size of the niche it might be the better decision.
Kurt August 9, 2012 um 12:09 pm
have been following this since you first mentioned the site
originally it looked like they were going to sell these rescued books at a reasonable cost which was fine by me but i could never locate anything about the books – and yes i did ask (email) with no response so not sure if you would get any further information that way
won’t subscribe so will have to find the old books and get them converted by 1dollarscan (discovered here also)
Ash August 10, 2012 um 1:50 am
Sorry you didn’t get a response Kurt, we’ve been a bit swamped, and I’m reluctant to make promises I can’t keep. Didn’t see your message, but please send another and I’ll gladly addres it myself.
The first two books will go up for individual sale next week, and there’s no need to destroy copies of them (they’re both fairly rare, it would be a shame), since all of our books are always drm free. If you don’t feel like paying, I’m sure you’ll be able to find copies soon enoug.
Apologies if anyone finds that we’ve been less forthcoming than they’d like, but we answer all the questions we can and all you need do is ask. Most importantly, if there’s something we haven’t thought of or can do better, please let us know. We’re not in this business to not give people what they want, within the bounds of copyright, reason, and remaining financially viable, in that order.
Chris Meadows August 10, 2012 um 7:36 am
Thanks for posting, Ash. That basically answers all my concerns. Might be a good idea if you were to mention that on the site, though; I’m sure there are plenty of people who go there to look for information about the books and don’t find anything, and for everyone who says something there will be lots of people who don’t.
Ash August 10, 2012 um 10:59 am
Good suggestion Chris.
FAQ section moving to the top of my list!