Think Global, Print Local: A Campaign for a New Commons-Based Publishing Network

Have you ever wanted to share an inspiring book that you thought could help people and communities elsewhere, but in another language?

Have you thought about combining decentralized online and offline ways of sharing information?

Have you imagined more complex, layered projects crossing cultures and oceans, while also saving resources and building the commons?

For years, these ideas have been stars on the horizon for us at Guerrilla Translation. And, now, we’ve created a project that does all that -- with your help -- and we’re ready to share our crowdfunding campaign on Goteo. (Surely you know our friends who crowdfund the commons!) We took an idea the P2P Foundation’s Michel Bauwens often talks about -- “What’s light is global, what’s heavy is local.” -- and turned it into a multi-team, transnational publishing project.

Guerrilla Translation translates (English to Spanish, and the reverse) and shares articles on our web magazines about the kinds of change we want to see, and be, in the world. But we love books, too, and want to share our favorites with our Spanish-speaking friends.

Books pose many challenges to translate, produce, and distribute, though. For a Spanish translation, a book should be available in both Europe and Latin America -- but transatlantic shipping costs a lot in resources, and a small publisher likely won’t have offices in multiple countries. Even within a continent, transnational shipping can be long distance. And what about the translation cost for a small publisher?

We believe a good book needs careful, skillful translation by humans, not software. Small-scale publishing and printing require time and resources. And, for these skills, we can’t simply ask everyone to volunteer their time; that’s also unsustainable. We want people to get paid fairly for their work.

We’ve come up with a new way to translate and share good books -- a new kind of transnational publishing network that is commons-oriented and ecologically minded: Think global -- print local.

With the help of this crowdfund, our teams will pioneer a new mode of artisanal, decentralized text translation, international book publishing, and distribution.

Our model starts by getting crowdfunding support for the translation plus basic design and formatting costs, then freely offering the translated text online as an ebook. But we also break out of digital space by producing a hard copy book through small-scale printing and distribution in several locations -- in this case, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and Spain.

This way, we avoid centralized production and environmentally unsustainable international shipping; we provide the ability for local producers to print and sell the hard copy book; and we add to the knowledge commons with the free digital version.

We have chosen a special book as a prototype: David Bollier’s Think Like a Commoner. (See what Mr. Bollier has to say about this projec tin this video and here in his blog.) This book explores the rich history and promising future of the commons -- a self-organizing social system for the stewardship and enrichment of our collective wealth.

There are more than 400 million native speakers of Spanish worldwide; with this project, Spanish speakers can read and share a fantastic introduction to the commons in book form. We particularly want to add to the conversation around the commons in Latin America, where a long-standing tradition of the commons is getting new energy and attention.

We urge our English-speaking -- and, indeed, all multi-lingual friends -- to join us in supporting this groundbreaking effort. This campaign is not only for the Spanish-speaking world -- we feel this is an important campaign for commoners worldwide. You’ll notice that one of our crowdfund donation rewards is the option to sponsor a number of “library” copies for another community. Of course we also intend to publish books in English, if this project is successful. Together with you, we want to bolster commoning as a challenge to the standard narrative of market economics, defend our shared wealth from enclosure, and create new relations and structures of production.

A successful campaign will allow us to "learn by doing" and repeat the experience with new books and texts in the future. Eventually, we’d like to crowdfund more books and offer more local nodes the option to print and sell books locally in various languages, so everyone’s costs are covered and good books can land in the hands of eager readers -- without the expensive and wasteful practices that result from centralized, old-school publishing and distribution models.

We can’t think of a better way to put our skills to work helping build the modern digital commons, while also enabling material commoning practices, so please join us with your support.

Production and labor costs will be covered by the campaign. Work will be performed globally and locally by the following P2P/commons-oriented translators and copyleft publishers: Guerrilla Translation (Spain, Portugal, and Argentina), Traficantes de Sueños (Spain), Tinta Limón (Argentina), La Libre de Barranco (Peru), Sursiendo (Mexico).

Check out our campaign here. There are many ways to help. Have a look and please spread the word!

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