We kicked off the research project ‘Revenue models for digital publishing’ at the PublishingLab with a three day zine making workshop. The first day was spent talking and scribbling down ideas in an attempt to define the problem. By the afternoon we had distilled our notes into a list of key questions. From this list, we settled on a single question that felt like a good starting point: ‘What is the cost of doing something for free?’

The idea was to take account of all of the costs that would go into producing the zine we were making. Not only the cost of paper and ink, but also the more hidden cost of our time and running the surrounding infrastructure. This meant accounting for the sandwiches we ate, the coffee we drank, the cigarettes we smoked, the office chairs we sat on, the internet we accessed, trips to the bathroom and so on over the three days it took to make the zine. While accounting for these costs and gathering images as a visual support it became clear that the best format for the zine would be to make it into a receipt – printed black only on cheap, thin paper. With the zine printed, the hard costs and the hidden costs amounted to a total of Euro379.95, a sum that far outweighed the value of the object itself.

Many interesting questions emerged from the process of making the zine that will form part of our research going forward. Key amongst these is a consideration of the value of the book (print or digital) itself. In thinking about alternative revenue models for the publishing industry, it is clear that when framed against the very real, but often hidden costs of production, one needs to look beyond the book itself as a source of income.






Revenue models for digital publishing is a research project at the PublishingLab headed by Silvio Lorusso with support from interns Nicoleta Pana, Luca Claessens and Oliver Barstow.

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