Those following me in my various social circles are probably already sick of hearing about this, but unglue.it launched yesterday. Unglue.it, started by Eric Hellman (aka @GlueJar) and other folks w/ connections to Code4Lib, is a effort to release copyrighted books to the world. Working with right-holders in a kickstarter style to raise enough money to license an ebook a creative commons non-commercial license. It's a way of "front-loading" profits so the author can be compensated for their work, but the world gets access.
They also have a mechanism for adding books to a "wishlist" that will give them an indication of works that people want and what right-holders they should track down.
This is a brilliant way to deal with some of those really important and hard to find out of print books. For example, I've wishlisted a very good biography by Greg Rickmann of Philip K. Dick called To the High Tower. It's a work that I stumbled across that's sought out by a small circle of Philip K Dick fans.
It's not clear if there's enough demand for another printing, but unglue.it offers a chance that it could be made easily available again while also giving the author further profit he's not going to see of this long-since sold out book otherwise. I have had the good fortune to read it due to the fact I work at a major library that has a ton of access of books, but I know many a sci-fi fan that doesn't have the resources I do.
I also must admit that I'm interested to see if this model works. I've thought about trying to do a small hobby side business of making value-added public domain works and perhaps doing something similar to unglue.it with near-orphaned copyright works. However, tracking down right-holders has proved troublesome enough that it's remained in my large bucket o' ideas I'd like to do someday. I'm hoping unglue.it takes off enough that it'll create a infrastructure that might make it easier to do projects of this nature.
Here's what I'm pledging to: