Keeping Up with the ISBN/Coppola Case – Some recent online press

BREAKING: As of 27 July 2015, ISBN Edizioni has filed for bankruptcy.
Italian writers/translators with claims should go to STradE’s info page to find out how to proceed: 

The case of the (apparently) bankrupt Italian publisher, ISBN Edizioni; of its director, Massimo Coppola; and of Coppola’s attempts to reframe the social-network narrative with himself as the “random scapegoat” and angry, unpaid translators and writers as “enemies of culture” has become a cause célèbre in Italy.

And not a moment too soon.

It’s long past time to talk about cultural work and cultural workers and to ask whether, after decades of insisting on contextualizing translation (especially literary translation) as “art” and “passion,” the chickens haven’t come home to roost in the form of disdain for the entire category. (See, e.g., “Please Stop Talking About Art!“)

At this point, it’s no longer possible to provide a completely accurate and up-to-date list of everything that’s being written and published about these issues in Italy, but are a few starting places are provided below. All these materials are in Italian, though a few key paragraphs have been translated.

We hope the anglophone publishing-industry press as well as English-speaking translation bloggers will start picking up on this news. Because to think these issues are unique to Italy would be a huge mistake.

  •, Matteo Bordone: “La cultura (non) paga” ~ – “It may well be that there were attempts to get [ISBN Edizioni] back on its feet. The point is that one senses a lack of respect, bordering on deceitfulness, in involving so many people in a business venture that was unable to meet its financial obligations, and above all an undervaluing of those individuals’ rights. The financial risks of a business belong to the business owner; they aren’t the responsibility of everyone else.”
  • Il Manifesto: “La kermesse del libro che rimuove la crisi” ~ “The crux of the problem, then, has to do with the concentration of publishing into oligarchies, the risks such a reality poses to “bibliodiversity,” and the built-in insecurity of work in the publishing industry…. At the moment, however, the real wager is whether there is a way to ensure that the revitalized voices of so-called “precarious” workers [i.e., part-time or non-employee project staff] will not be buried beneath the flood of books being printed and that publishers, both large and small, mainstream and independent, can stop depending upon a precarious labor force and low salaries for their existence.”
  • Il Sole 24Ore, Marco Passarello: “#OccupayISBN: la mia esperienza” ( – “Now, I understand that the publishing industry is in crisis. I’m well aware, when a crisis takes place, that it is possible for a [business owner] who is operating in good faith to find himself, despite everything, unable to pay his creditors, no matter how much he wants to. What I would point out to Mr. Coppola, who considers himself the victim of an “unfair and uninformed” attack, and to those who praise him, is that ISBN commissioned a new project from translators who had never worked for him before [i.e., the author and his wife, who were not paid for their work. Tr. note] at a point in time when, by his own admission, he had already begun laying off staff and was having difficulty paying existing debts. That fact, I believe, speaks for itself.”
  • minima&moralia: “I lavoratori di #OccupayIsbn rispondono a Massimo Coppola.” ~ – “We’d like to move away from the specific case [of ISBN] in order to reflect on the question of cultural work in general. Too often in this country, such work is seen as a hobby, a personal mission, a favor that has been granted, an opportunity to increase personal fame or social prestige. Everything, in short, except an actual job. Yes, we enjoy writing, translating, and working with books; at times we’re proud of what we do. But it is work, work that we are able to do thanks to years of study and to the wealth of experience and skill that we’ve gained over time. It is a job. It is work which, like all other work, deserves to be paid fairly and punctually. In money. Not in visibility or in one more line that we can add to our résumés.

About No Peanuts! for Translators

No Peanuts! supports professional translators & interpreters in demanding & receiving fair pay for their work.
This entry was posted in Notes from No Peanuts!, Resistance, Respect and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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