Lack Of Transparency Stalls Crowdfunded Book Publishing Venture

This piece is carved and painted into a carrot and radish. Great gift for a gardener.

Crowdfunding helps turn dreams into realities with the help of small donations from people all over the world. Simple concept, everybody wins. So why can’t the world’s first crowdfunded book publishing project get off the ground?

Last May, London-based Unbound garnered significant media attention by announcing that it would be the Kickstarter of the publishing industry, giving readers the chance to decide which books are worthy of the paper they’re printed on. But since then the project seems to have stalled, leaving some to wonder if there’s room for more than one player in the crowdfunding niche.

Here is the original plan:

Fast-forward a few months, and Unbound has only successfully funded one book,ย Evil Machines,ย by Monty Python comedian Terry Jones. A quick glance of at the homepage shows only 5 projects in progress–none of which have more than 40 percent funding.

So what’s the problem?

It appears that Unbound’s creators weren’t entirely honest when they called their venture the Kickstarter of book publishing, and these seemingly insignificant differences could be to blame for the lack of participation.

Gigaom reports:

Adrian Hon, who has worked with publishers like Penguin and has raised almost $5,000 on Kickstarterย for his own website and book project, has taken a look.ย In a great piece on his blog, he explains how Unbound took the Kickstarter model and tweaked it without realizing the implications.

โ€œThe closer you look,โ€ he writes, โ€œthe more differences you spot.โ€ Those differences include transparency (Kickstarter is transparent for donors and creators alike, while Unbound is โ€œbafflingly opaqueโ€); the feeling that itโ€™s not entirely authentic (creators seem to be successful authors who are raising money for projects they have already completed); and limited horizons (most of the authors are famous in Britain but are not internationally recognized).

Trust is an essential characteristic of any successful peer-to-peer or sharing business. The owners must trust their audience enough to provide quality feedback. Customers must trust the owners (and each other) to deliver on promises, use resources efficiently, and treat the community with respect.

Today’s consumers are astoundingly equipped to detect b.s., especially when it tries to mooch off of another, already successful idea. As the Gigaom article goes on to point out, “crowdfunding isn’t just about the funding.” The best crowdfunding ventures are created and supported by an existing community that wants to lend its members more than just lip-service. Trying to convince a community it wants something will always be harder than provided something the community already knows it needs.

Have you ever participated in a crowdfunding venture? How important was transparency and/or community when choosing to participate (or not)? Tell us in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Ian Wilson

Written by Beth Buczynski

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