Cartonera Publishers Database, documenting grassroots publishing initiatives

Paloma Celis Carbajal (, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States of America

Starting in Buenos Aires with Eloísa Cartonera in 2003, Cartonera publishers emerged as a reaction to the over commercialization of the book industry and its ever-growing conglomerates. With their unique hand embellished covers and their peculiar aesthetics, these publishers have challenged how books and literature are produced and distributed. Their collective manual process is equal to the intellectual one, resulting in a more democratic mode of production.

For thirteen years, the Cartonera Publishers Database has been documenting and preserving the diverse initiatives that stem from these grassroots projects which use recycled cardboard as book covers. The database is comprised of more than 1,200 entries which include Dublin Core metadata, scanned images of the back and front covers, copyright pages, and title pages, and audio files of interviews of several members of Cartonera publishing houses. An electronic crosswalk connects these entries to local cataloging of the Cartonera Book Collection. The audio files and an online full-text book “Akademia Cartonera: A primer of Latin American Cartonera Publishers” are additionally indexed and marked using TEI. This database is the only digital reference tool on these multi-pronged publishing initiatives. The ultimate goal is to connect this locally focused digital humanities project with cartonera books held at other institutions around the world in an interinstitutional Cartonera Catalog.

In the past year, I have been studying the possibility of using crowd sourcing and/or folksonomies to supplement the current content with the goal of providing a deeper understanding of the variety of contexts in which these books are created while also offering a space for the Cartonera publishers to contribute other content created directly by them. My proposed papers addresses the database and initial efforts to expand our work.

Appendix A

  1. Cartonera Publishers Database, (accessed 20 November 2017).

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