Inclusive Technologies, Selective Traditions: A Socio-material Case Study of Crowdfunded Book Publishing

Rob Gleasure, Philip O'Reilly, Michael Cahalane

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The number and scale of crowdfunding platforms has increased dramatically in recent years, arguably more so than any other open phenomenon. This increase has allowed several crowdfunding websites to capture significant public attention, e.g. Kickstarter, Indiegogo. Yet, the growth of these specialist websites is only one aspect of the increasing popularity of crowdfunding technologies. Another, less-commonly discussed development is the propagation and integration of crowdfunding technologies into novel hybrid or proprietary production contexts, such as t-shirts (e.g. Threadless) or video games (e.g. Star Citizen). Such integrations are to be expected as crowdfunding technologies grow and evolve. However, they also present new challenges for managers and system designers, as the manner in which different features of crowdfunding technologies are enacted becomes decreasingly predictable the more their application domains diverge. This study performs a socio-material case study of Unbound, an innovative book publisher based in the UK. Unbound uses crowdfunding technologies to help authors raise the funding necessary to publish their books. However, once this funding has been reached, Unbound assumes more typical publisher responsibilities, such as editing, printing, binding, shipping, and promoting these books. Findings from Unbound identify four categories of socio-material practices in this hybrid model, each of which contains multiple sub-practices enacting different material features. This includes practices for fundraising, practices for maintaining traditional publishing standards, practices for creative contribution by backers, and practices for motivations. Further, tensions are observed for each of these categories of practices, due to the conflicting demands for inclusivity and selectivity associated with crowdfunding and publishing, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Information Technology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)326–343
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Crowdfunding
  • Book publishing
  • Socio-materiality
  • Case study
  • Unbound

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