Re-bundling: The Very Possibility
Since the emergence of the Internet Age, the general trend has been to unbundle content (newspapers and print magazines etherized and anatomized into articles, albums cut into 99 cent singles), to make content available via search, and for aggregation sites to skim advertising profits and other profits by nudging users to pass through their sites in order to get to the sought-after content. For the newspaper industry in particular, the puzzle has been how to stay afloat while grappling with existing reality. Many papers have folded while others cut staff and soldier hopelessly on.
Usually, the verdict is grim, though it needn’t be in all cases. I believe this movement toward unbundling also enables a counter-movement toward re-bundling content. Doing so may require a creative twist, in this case by exiting or bypassing the market system.
Re-bundling Content in a Gift Economy
To test this view that one can rebundle content by exiting or bypassing the market system, I’m inserting the idea of re-bundling into a gift economy. The point is to make it sound counterintuitive in market terms yet plausible and generous in gift economic terms.
In a gift economy, gifts are intended only to meet my material needs (food, water, shelter, warmth, coldness, and health care). In this case, I am offering, as a gift, my entire collection of e-books and audiobooks. You can receive all six e-books as well as the two audiobooks on Daoism and chanting by making a $10 offer via PayPal. If you would like to offer more than $10, you may do so wholeheartedly. If you need to offer less than $10, you needn’t be concerned; you can receive the entire collection as well.
To view the collection of books, to accept my offer, and to offer your gift via PayPal, you can visit the Ebooks section of my main website.
How is This not a Market Transaction?
That’s a good question. I’ll offer two main reasons (though there are also others). Bear in mind that the mere presence of money doesn’t, on its own, make some relationship necessarily into a ‘market system’ relationship.
In the first place, then, the offerings have reasons that are different from market reasons. I offer a set of books to you in order to enhance your life, to cultivate your character. Then, you offer however much you do to me in order to meet some of my material needs.
In the second place, there is no equivalence drawn between the books and the material offering, no equals sign or X per Y. You could offer more than the amount I suggest, less, or nothing at all and in each case you’ll receive the entire collection of books.
From both of these claims, it follows that the two sequential acts in a gift economy involve taking turns. When it’s my turn, I offer something to you and you accept; when it’s your turn, you offer something else to me and I accept.