• Table of contents

    • [+]Preliminaries (3)
    • [+]Introduction (4)
    • [—]Latin America (13)
    • [+]Sub-Saharan Africa (9)
    • [+]Arab World (11)
    • [+]Russia (11)
    • [+]India (11)
    • [+]China (9)
    • [+]Conclusions (6)
    • [+]Appendix (1)

Latin America

Online reading and writing

The Internet is currently home to much of the literary vitality of Latin America. The Web has become a privileged setting for creation and diffusion, thanks to free and open source tools like WordPress, Issuu and Blogspot. There are countless online literary journals and blogs, such as Moleskine Literario (Peru), Ficción Breve (Venezuela), Boca de Sapo (Argentina) or CuatroCuentos (various countries), which are setting a course and fast becoming one of the most fertile sources of modern-day Latin American narrative and poetry. Carolina Sborovsky, a writer and editor at El fin de la noche, believes that, with its enormous plasticity, the Web represents a key stimulus for literature in the region:

For Latin American literature – for all the actors involved –, the shift towards online platforms brings with it huge advantages in relation to ease of circulation, distribution and visibility. Its scope and possibilities reach towards the universal, and the timeless, which is what literature is concerned with. Moreover, within Latin America the digital medium enables “native” readers to discover texts in their own dialect without having to go through the hurdle of Iberian publication. In simple terms: Argentine readers, for example, can read any Uruguayan or Chilean writer who publishes their work online, without any longer having to wait for a Spanish publisher or transnational publishing house to select that Chilean or Uruguayan for their catalogue and distribute them. Let’s say that this is a step towards specificity: regional modulations, lexical choices peculiar to a community at a certain moment (captured and presented for reading almost simultaneously), its trends and affectations. In this sense, online literature has great documentary potential and, within the vast digital world, it veers towards detail and idiosyncrasy, which is also what literature is all about.[1]

With regard to academic publishing, there is also a definite trend towards putting content developed by local universities and research institutes on the Web.[2] These repositories aim to satisfy the bibliographic needs of a region that cannot always afford to pay thousands of dollars in subscriptions to access specialized texts. While virtual academic libraries enable researchers and students to consult different materials with Creative Commons[3] or similar licenses, many have decided to go a step further and create free repositories of works including some that are under copyright protection, which has provoked heated debates and even led to lawsuits. One such example was the legal action taken against Horacio Potel, an Argentine philosophy professor who had been uploading books by Derrida and Heidegger to the Web since the early 2000s.[4] Following fierce controversy in the graphic[5] and digital media,[6] the legal offensive, originally orchestrated by the Argentine Book Chamber, came to nothing, since the Public Prosecutor’s Office ended up dismissing the case against Potel in November 2009. It is interesting to observe that although the case did not prosper, it did not lead to any noteworthy developments in legislation either, which means that the current situation remains unclear. In any case, it is obvious that there is a tension in Latin America between, on the one hand, the traditional model of supply (publishing based on traditional copyright and the sale of printed copies) and, on the other, an avid demand for digital content. It will be very difficult for traditional publishers to hold back the tide of mass digitization, since as we will see in the case of Russia, many of the unauthorized virtual libraries are located abroad or are part of closed social networks. An (anonymous) expert in digitization recently declared to the newspaper Página/12 (Argentina):

Circulation on the web is more complex than with printing firms. It is uncontrollable and unstoppable. You upload a book by Sartre and within a month it is on thousands of hard disks all over the planet. (…) Things that sell on a large scale are those that are digitized the most, as happens with music. There were users who came to us and said ‘Digitize the Da Vinci Code! I have a right to read Dan Brown!’. Until we decided not to accept requests on the list; and if it was a work of fiction we would wait a year for it to circulate. That way we managed to get rid of those people who ask for a book that just came out yesterday.[7]

  1. Personal interview, February 2011.
  2. A detailed list of the academic libraries of a field like social sciences can be found here: http://sala.clacso.edu.ar/gsdl/cgi-bin/library.
  3. One example is the Repositorio Digital de la Escuela Politécnica of Ecuador.
  4. That is to say, texts that were still privately owned.
  5. Cf. García, Facundo: “El conocimiento no es una mercancía”, Página 12, 26th April, 2009.
  6. The Facebook group “Contra la desaparición de Heideggeriana.com y Derrideana.com” was supported by thousands of Net users.
  7. Cf. García, Facundo: “Hay esperanza de gozar un acceso franco a la cultura”, Página/12, 23rd January, 2011.

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