My Own Private Public Library
The present paper analyzes the emergence of Bulgarian digital libraries with pirated literature as a form of compensation for the failure of both the state and the market to provide easy access to electronic books in Bulgarian. These grass-roots digital libraries can be understood best through an analysis of the dichotomies between formal and informal economy, law and ethics, commercial and non-commercial interest, bricolage and engineering. Sharing of books online in Bulgaria has its historical precedent in the sharing of cultural objects during socialism and is part of the larger logic of informal economy as a form of independence from/resistance to the state. While many of the books in these electronic libraries are uploaded in infringement of copyright, the creators and users of the sites defend them on the basis of what is ethically right and claim that they contribute to the spread of knowledge. The paper emphasizes the rhetorical force of the word ‘library’ which is being appropriated by both commercial and non-commercial actors. Without underestimating the value provided by many of the grass-roots digital libraries discussed, the analysis leads to the question whether the bottom-up collaborative strategy for digitizing books is the optimal one in terms of the variety of titles offered and the overall coherence of digital archives. In short, should sharing replace more traditional state policies in the field of culture?
Copyright (c) 2017 Julia Rone
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