Joshua Mostafa deposited Dubplate literature: distribution beyond the market on Humanities Commons 5 years, 7 months ago
The trajectories of the commercial imperative and of cultural production are at best orthogonal. Publishers who care about literature as an end in itself are tacking into the wind, attempting to nurture aesthetic value using methods designed to generate monetary value. This informal pact is threatened by economic rationalisation, under pressure from deep discounting imposed by aggressive retailers and the devaluation concomitant with digitisation. Attempts to escape this race to the bottom have mostly followed one of two alternative strategies: open access (free and digital) and the book as artefact (expensive and physical). The former is ideal for scholarly work, but tends to devalue literature, as its de-commodification sacrifices the principle of scarcity: it is as if the book is still on the market with a price of zero, a marker of worthlessness. The latter is essentially commodity fetishism, better suited to established classics than to new work. Drawing on the example of dub-plate culture in certain music scenes, whereby limited pressings of tracks are cut on acetate or vinyl and circulated informally—a practise that has recently enjoyed a resurgence as a reaction to digitisation—I propose the revival of a old practise: private circulation.