In an era in which the digital technologies are redefining how people produce, distribute and consume information, the book industry could not remain unaffected. Much has been said about the business models of new-age corporate giants, like Amazon, which utilize digital technologies to maximize profits.
Are there alternatives to the profit-driven models of translating, publishing and distributing books? “Information wants to be free”, a famous dictum reads; and the following article demonstrates, through a case study of Guerrilla Translation’s “Think Global, Print Local” initiative, how this could happen:
“To bolster commoning as challenge to the standard practices of economics, alternative relations and structures of production are needed. In this context, the starting points of this article are a problem and a nascent opportunity. The problem is the need to share a knowledge artifact, such as a book, with people and communities elsewhere, but in a language into which the artifact has not yet been translated. The opportunity is the convergence of decentralized online and offline ways of sharing knowledge, from the Ιnternet and book printers to commons-oriented copyright licenses and crowdfunding platforms.
This article discusses a case study that synthesizes the aforementioned dynamics and tools and, therefore, presents a new commons-based publishing model codified as “think global, print local”. The uniqueness of the case rests in its goal to pioneer a commons-based model of artisanal, decentralized text translation and international book distribution and publishing. By using the digital knowledge commons as well as distributed nodes of printing hardware, this case study tries to avoid centralized production and environmentally harmful international shipping in an economically viable way for its contributors.
The question we address is the following: Can this experiment serve as a template or an example that could strengthen commons-based practices in the field of writing, translating and publishing? This article focuses on two interrelated aspects that may allow us to further the understanding of institutions for the use and management of shared resources. First, we describe an emerging techno-economic model of value creation and distribution in relation to the knowledge commons. Second, we discuss the dynamics of the chosen commons-oriented copyright license, named the Peer Production License.”