Blockchain and books: digital content property revolution

Not only can Blockchain completely alter the publishing economy, it may also metamorphose the idea of online property.

AC de Fombelle
Oct 18, 2017 · 4 min read

Blockchain is a blurry concept for many of us. If so, start by watching the 2 min video above. It gives you all the essentials on what it is. Blockchain in the context of publishing is something we’ve been talking about internally for a long while but we were mainly philosophising, starting to create solutions from this concept in our minds and a bit on paper.
The concept is truly starting to move towards reality on our side as we are investing a lot to adapt our tools to integrate blockchain. Plus, the discussion is now open in a lot of publishing communities, starting with the Alliance of Independent Authors with the “Blockchain for books” initiative where I was really happy to see authors eager to explore this technology.

Actually, knowing that the request was coming from authors — and not just a mere project of big companies — showed us it was a relevant project to pursue and, in that spirit, we got in touch with the Alli team to be part of the conversation there.
The first step people get to when mentioning blockchain for books is as a solution for micro-payments and safer economic solutions for authors. However, the industry’s disruption can go further than that: blockchain can redefine digital objects, rethink intellectual property which means truly be the tool for the Publishing Renaissance to take place.

Blockchain as a sustainable economic route

Individuals need to rely on a third party for any money transaction. blockchain gets rid of this third party. It is a solution for readers to make micro-payments, and for authors to safely track eBook purchases and truly enjoy independent publishing;

“The blockchain allows authors to become the first calling point and information hub for the work they have created and to credit all who have contributed and collaborated.”

Blockchain will trace back to whoever is involved in the book project (editors, designers, cover artists, etc.) and share revenues according to previously set rules.

Blockchain as intellectual property protection

I won’t get into the mess DRM is again.

We however still need to protect intellectual property online. Watermark is a fine solution to credit the creators of books* but doesn’t ensure all profits on the book’s sales will go to the entitled people, wherever and however it may be sold. Plus, it doesn’t keep track of the diffusion of the book online. Blockchain does. Using blockchain technology to publish and distribute books online means tracking them and being able to make sure money always goes back to the original owner, when needed.

It also opens the possibility of controlled book “side-projects”: translations, adaptations, spin-offs, fan fictions, etc. where authors and publishers decide to authorize this kind of initiatives while keeping royalty shares if those projects are then sold.

Instead of going through impossible tracking processes to ask for authorizations or just doing it without asking anyone, creativity born from an original work can flourish.

* all this actually goes for any digital content but let’s stay focused on our topic of interest here.

Blockchain as digital property solution

Last but not least, Another door Blockchain opens is actually rethinking the concept of property of online objects. Right now, how do you own digital books? When you purchase an eBook, it’s made so that you can’t resell it or lend it. You buy a licence to access it individually. As you would a software. It misses part of the book lifecycle.

The part where you lend a book to a friend because you loved it, want to share the experience, and you don’t mind parting with it for a while. The part where books who filled one’s library with dreams and imaginary travel then are resold to have the same purpose in the library of another. The part where I would be able to buy a copy of a book I love, mention it to a friend and give it to him instantly and then buy it again two month later because I love having it ready to be given to someone else. (I actually bought the same book more than 10 times, each time to put it in my private library and each time giving it unexpectedly when a friend visited. But this was with paperbacks.) If eBooks are exchanged online via blockchain, all this is possible.

Using the technology to actually carry the eBooks means instead of licences, readers actually own an “eBook object” that can be borrowed, resold, etc.

Do you see how this can completely and utterly change digital publishing? Do you see what kind of revolution we have on our hands?

We have been many to approach the blockchain topic in the past few weeks and there is a reason for this: This blockchain revolution is only possible if all the book players (authors, readers, etc.) see its value and learn what it would mean for them to be onboard so, if you understand the groundbreaking change this could be, share this around and, if you don’t understand: please ask questions!


The global gateway distributor of digital and paper books for the 21st century.

AC de Fombelle

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The global gateway distributor of digital and paper books for the 21st century.