Publica — A Renaissance in Publishing
By Allan Ewart
The Blockchain is an extraordinary thing, and so is email, because you never know what you’re going to get hit with next in this age of technology space. When I opened this one, I had the sense that this could be a potentially life-changing moment, not just for me and other aspiring authors, but also for an entire ecosystem that is the world of publishing.
Then as I delved in, it became apparent that this has the makings of something that is potentially nothing short of a modern day renaissance, at the very least in a literary sense. And believe me, I don’t say that lightly. It gives me goose bumps and butterflies. So, what on earth am I talking about?
It is difficult to know where to begin with something as monumentally huge as this, and it would be impossible for me to cover everything here. I can barely scratch the surface. But nevertheless, in this piece I will attempt to deliver a very brief condensed summary of the quintessential entity that is evolving as Publica.
If you happen to be one of the major publishing conglomerates, I would proffer that things are about to change irrevocably. But it’s for the best, and unless you embrace it, and go with it, very soon you will be left behind in a whirlwind of dust wondering what happened.
So, what is happening?
Publishing has reached the point of crisis. It is clear that it no longer serves the people it was supposed to serve — ultimately authors and readers. But there is also a whole ecosystem in between the author and the reader that needs to be rewarded and served for bringing the end product to the consumer.
What we have now is a system that serves publishing companies and their shareholders for profit, and it doesn’t really provide readers, the end consumer, with what they necessarily want. It doesn’t actually serve authors and aspiring authors particularly well either. Authors lose much of their revenue to the big publishers and also lack the necessary tools required for success through self-publishing.
Readers need freedom to choose unencumbered by bureaucracy that restricts with geographic, language and other unnecessary barriers. Authors need to express themselves freely, create masterpieces and be rewarded fairly for their work. The system as it stands rewards a few authors at the top of the spectrum and leaves little hope or opportunity for new and aspiring talents.
It is clear that the playing field needs to be levelled. Authors should be rewarded fairly with rights and derivative rights which are irrefutable and facilitated by a mechanism that is both transparent and binding.
Publica Smart Contracts and the Blockchain
Copyright is a huge topic and beyond the scope of this piece. Thus, I would encourage you to read the literature on the Publica website.
The Publica team have investigated thoroughly into legal frameworks both relating to the current paradigm as well as where it sits in the Blockchain space pertaining to Smart Contracts. They’ve uncovered certain failings re the legalities of Smart Contracts, which are clearly far from a panacea, and they are well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. But the mere fact they are addressing these issues is most encouraging to say the least.
Smart contracts will govern access to literary works, payments and intellectual property revenue distributions, between authors, third parties and the platform.
Publica believes this is just the beginning. It’s going to be a new environment of creativity and trust by using smart contracts and the Blockchain. They believe this new ecosystem will be a bit like a new Country called Publica, with it’s own currency, called Pebbles (PBL).
The PBL token is described as a protocol currency with a fixed and locked supply, which is the only means of payment accepted within the Publica protocol for goods and services traded there by its participants.
In essence, the PBL token is a decentralised crypto-currency that provides a convenient way to verify ownership of books and myriad other publications, and at the same time avoid the clutches of the traditional publishing industry.
So, where is publishing going?
Publica believes that publishing has a visible trajectory similar to what Steve Jobs alluded to in his metaphor when he said during the launch of the first iPhone, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been”. Thus, Publica thinks that the Blockchain is where the publishing ecosystem is going to be.
They are keen to point out that they don’t mean that the trajectory is from paper books to e-books, but what they are referring to is the trajectories from the dissimilar worlds of traditional publishing and self-publishing that are currently on a collision course. Thus, the Publica platform will be designed to include the best of both worlds.
What they see evolving is that the distinctions between publishing and self-publishing will blur and that the blockchain is the accelerator to make that happen.
So, how do they intend to achieve this?
Let’s explore what they’ve achieved already and what’s to come in the timeline. But first, let’s indulge ourselves by taking a close look at what an experienced professional 25 strong team which is built for success looks like!
As you will see, this team is a tour de force!
Josef Marc, CEO
Experience leading teams in the launch of DirecTV, 500 channels of fully automated digital satellite television, and the launch of Verizon FIOS TV. Co-founded Archimedia Technology (acquired by GrayMeta). At Front Porch Digital (acquired by Oracle), Josef designed systems and operations that preserved and made digitally accessible the ten-year videotaped history of the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
At SAMMA Systems he worked closely with the United States Library of Congress NAVCC technical and operations teams. His first technology job was in a startup that was acquired by Sony. At Sony he managed teams building two Olympics broadcast centers for CBS, several Jumbotron control rooms including New York Times Square, and innovative entertainment and interactive television systems for Celebrity Cruises “cyberships”.
Josef’s first career was in music and that’s when he first learned how publishing and self-publishing works. He and a partner wrote, recorded, printed, sold and shipped their own music on vinyl records until the manager of The Police (Sting’s Supergroup), signed them to a publishing deal for his company. Studied in the pre-law curriculum at the University of San Diego.
Yuri Pimenov, CTO
Bitcoin Trading Technology & Systems Pioneer, Former Head of R&D at Latvia’s Top Brand Search Engine, experience in machine learning, robotics, and high-load Internet technologies. Yuri is one of the few industry professionals who can be counted on to connect a grand vision with a real-life technical solution.
Yuri is a Longtime contributor to the blockchain community with his blog and his Russian translation of the seminal book “Mastering Blockchain” by Andreas Antonopoulos. Before Publica, he was the CTO of a leading Bitcoin exchange. Other work experience includes peer-to-peer lending platform development, a national email server, automated magazine publishing, and Internet radio. Masters Degree from Riga Technical University.
Antons Sapriko, COO
Responsible for operational management, experience leading Scandiweb from a local agency, to becoming the largest ecommerce services provider on the Magento platform, experience in setting up workflows for enterprise-grade delivery to Walmart, Jaguar, Land Rover, The New York Times, Peugeot.
He and his teams built and launched successful smart contracts and blockchain apps for the launch of large-scale ICOs for $25 and $30 million led by USA-based Element Group. Antons learned to code at 14 and won top places in Math Olympiads at national level. Degree in Business Administration from Stockholm School of Economics, Riga, started Master of Science at IT University, Copenhagen.
Founder of Bitcoinchaser.com
Professor of Technology, Communication, Organization and Management at the Department of Sociology and Political Science at NTNU, Norway.
Sheron Wood McCartha
Author of ten science fiction novels, self-taught self-publisher and CEO of Digital Imagination Publishing.
Economist, financial technology consultant, adjunct scholar to The Mises Institute, Degrees in both Economics and Statistics from San Francisco State University and Phi Beta Kappa. Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, Wells Fargo Bank, Visa and Bank of America.
Certified Scrum Master and Product Owner succesfully leading projects from POS systems in hotel chains, to online retailing for Jaguar, Land Rover and Hyundai
Certified Scrum Master and Product Owner, experience in delivery for the New York Times, Walmart, JYSK.
Founder of Marketing and Analytics department in Scandiweb, Glebs is behind success of many multi-million retailers and startups.
Agile Coach, taking care of personal and professional progression within an organisation of almost 200 people.
Financial Advisory. CFO at Scandiweb, Andrew joined Publica to bring accounts transparency for the community, he has been working as a Senior Auditor at KPMG and internal auditor at Kronospan.
Creative behind the digital success of brands such as Buff, Jaguar, Land Rover and Lafayette148.
Motion Designer, who will help Publica to explain its novelty. Daniels is the author of the video you saw on our landing page.
Senior Mobile app developer gaining large-scale development experience in Ask.fm
Developer, Team-lead, experience in delivery for Hyundai and Mitsubishi.
Senior front-end developer and Vue.js evangelist.
Smart contract and blockchain app developer.
Smart contract and blockchain app developer.
Dmitry Kravchenko, PhD
Smart contract and blockchain app developer.
Kevin Le Goff
Mobile app developer, Android.
Team-lead delivering for Sephora and Nestle.
SMM and Community management.
SMM and Community management.
Senior front-end developer.
My take on the Publica Team
One of the first things I do when I’m considering investing in a company start-up is to look at the team. This is a seriously impressive team that is designed to deliver. Their blue-chip experience of course speaks for itself, but I’m mightily impressed by all of the talented, experienced and highly educated people involved here. You can do your own due diligence, but I can’t sing their praises highly enough, and that was a no brainer for me. This company means business.
Initial Coin Offering (ICO)
An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in crypto-currency operates in a similar way to Initial Public Offerings (IPO) in the business equity world. A company goes public and investors buy shares in the company. An ICO works a bit like a “Go Fund Me” project via crowd-funding campaigns, where a company raises a target amount of capital by a specified date.
If the amount raised doesn’t reach the target amount within the specified timeframe, then the money is returned to investors. If the goal is reached or exceeded, then it will be used for development and to grow the company with the aim of giving investors a return on their investment. In Publica’s case the goal was exceeded.
The Publica ICO
Just prior to the d10e Conference (a pitch competition for upcoming ICOs) on 14th November 2017 in Davos, Switzerland, the Publica team managed to raise about $300k. After the presentation, buyers immediately piled in smashing the hard cap target of $1m in just a few hours. Many investors were disappointed as they couldn’t get in, but now have the opportunity to buy on the secondary market.
Here is a photo that Josef sent me from Davos, Switzerland the morning after having just raised $1m the night before (Hope you don’t mind me publishing this Josef, but I’ll be keeping this one for posterity!):
Quotes from the Concept document by Josef Marc
(Courtesy of Publica)
Publica lets everyone, not only readers, put money into books, for any motive. You don’t have to take risks like an investor, per se, because you’re buying tokens that unlock the book to read. You’re paying what the book is already worth, and you own your tokens, just like owning a paper book. If those tokens go up in value, that’s like a paper book’s first edition going up in value.
Are publishers, like motion picture studios, evolving into primarily a banking function? That’s complicated to contemplate, but there’s a simple idea for them in Publica. In today’s “quantitative easing” financial environment, interest returns on savings, bonds, even treasuries, barely hold even. Often they lose value to inflation. Maybe book tokens offer a better store of value for a publisher. Digital book tokens aren’t a regulated security (how could they be?) but if they increase in value, as first edition paper books often do, and publishers pick good books, as publishers often do, good for them. And good for the authors who sold them their book tokens.
Accounting is the hidden major pain point in publishing today. Publishers might cheat and authors know it.
Smart contracts are as fast as the Internet itself. Blockchains can be trusted forever. Distributed ledgers and computing nodes have no downtime. There’s no limit to what Publica can do to make publishing’s accounting fast, accurate, trustworthy, and mobile. Skating to where the puck is going.
Publishers aren’t going away. They want to evolve too. The same can be said of the entire publishing ecosystem, and Publica will address them all. Literary editors, scholarly editors, scientific editors, peer reviewers, proofreaders, cover artists, book agents, institutions, patrons, critics, social media, advertising creatives, ad buyers, book packagers, printers, warehousers, shippers, bookstore owners and more.
Book ICO Builder
Publica will build so-called Book ICOs for crowd-funding books. Tokens distributed in these ICOs (called READ tokens) should comply with a well-known token standard so they can be easily moved, traded, stored in digital wallets. READ tokens also prove ownership and grant decryption to an ebook that was bought in a Publica Book ICO.
Authors can choose how to distribute their tokens, at what price, in how many rounds, and in limited or unlimited numbers. Publica will keep a library of common templates for this. Publica will make a user-friendly online interface for creating and controlling smart contracts that implement the rules of a Book ICO. Crowd-funding campaign updates will be transparent and published on the corresponding Book ICO page and recorded on the blockchain if necessary. Authors are ultimately responsible for communicating with their crowd-funders, although our community managers will help along the way.
I asked Josef and Antons a couple of questions regarding the Publica project, and they were kind enough to give the following responses:
Josef, can you please explain briefly:
How and when did you first learn about the Publica idea, and what was it that sparked your interest in getting involved?
I met Antons in Palo Alto CA in February. We had a customer in common and we were working on some project details. He mentioned blockchain in passing and I asked him to keep talking. Because I read Satoshi’s paper in 2013 and have been looking for an application of digital trust in my own career in broadcast technology. Before broadcast technology, I worked all kinds of odd jobs in publishing, mostly on the author’s side of the equation. Publishing and broadcasting have things in common because they’re global communication tools.
In March I visited Antons’ offices in Riga, on the same project. I saw Scandiweb’s capabilities, impressive. Antons, Yuri, and I took a very long walk on the Jurmala beach and kept talking about blockchain. Yuri had an idea to do something with ebooks. I had a much bigger vision of the publishing ecosystem as a whole, because of my long experience with all its aspects.
This next bit is in our first white paper, page 53 of this early draft. In April I wrote a poem to myself about Why I should do something about it. Writing that paper is how I became committed to Publica as a mission. As you can see, it’s a grand mission, a far-reaching vision.
Once Antons, Yuri, and I agreed on that paper, we set out to define the project. Baby steps. Keep it simple. Don’t try to boil the ocean in a day. The result of that work was the Publica PBL ICO, and four more white papers to explain and define it. We’re quite happy with the results so far.
Antons, what was the initial spark that inspired you to come up with the idea behind Publica? In other words, what was the initial catalyst that inspired you?
It was a talk with Yuri, when we were living and working together in Palo Alto in Scandiweb’s temporary office. He shared that he had a game development studio and wanted to PRESELL licenses for games. Thus validating our interest if ppl wanted to buy and raise funds. Then we applied this idea to books as we met authors and learned that they had similar plans.
From Josef’s Afterward
We believe profit is a fuel, not a purpose. Our purpose is to explore the multi-sided economy of publishing to find out where trust and freedom can make it a more trust worthy, more frictionless economy.
When we talk about —
— Blockchains, we’re talking about a technology for trust and freedom. They’re the foundation for human welfare and prosperity.
— Smart contracts, we’re talking about codifying trust so machines can work for us. Publica means “the people” so that means you.
— Rights, we’re talking about what our constituents — you plural — can trust each other with.
— Tokens and cryptocurrency, we’re talking about a trusted, stable economy in our sphere of influence. You can, and will, exchange them for other currencies when and where you choose.
— Platforms and models, we’re talking about flexibility. Most of you are creative in more ways than one. Our purpose is to facilitate your creativity in the publishing economy.
Why do we care?
Because publishing is how humanity helps itself. Teaching is publishing and vice versa. Science, art, know-how, crafts, even technology itself, we all benefit from the publications of those who explore before us.
We want to inspire you-the-people to new heights, to create new ways of doing business, to make the old ways of doing business easier and ever more trustworthy and efficient for all in a multi-sided publishing economy.
I’m just going to leave it at that. I’ve nothing to add, other than to say I’m in awe. It’s a fantastic piece of work. Josef, Yuri, Antons and their team of advisors have thought it through thoroughly, and then some. They’ve covered it. Don’t take my word for it, read the documentation for yourself because when you understand what they are contributing to the world of publishing through the Publica project, it will blow your mind.
The Publica website: https://publica.io
The Whitepaper: https://publica.io/whitepapers/summary.pdf
The Budget: https://publica.io/whitepapers/budget.pdf
Author Disclaimer — Important — Please Read
My articles are intended to provide information only. My conclusions are based on my own opinions and past experiences. They are not necessarily endorsements. Nothing contained within them should be, in any way shape or form, construed as financial advice and nor are they an invitation to invest. Readers are encouraged to do their own research and due dilligence. Cryptocurrency markets have a history of being highly volatile and subject to high risk.