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Blockchain For Books

Blockchain, the technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, also has enormous implications for authors and publishers.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured.

Unlike HTML, blockchain allows one person to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another in a way that 1) is guaranteed safe and secure; 2) open, visible and agreed by all; and 3) cannot be subsequently modified.

Blockchain is not perfect and is not fully established yet but the way it registers and distributes information eliminates the need for a third party to facilitate digital relationships.

The consequences of this breakthrough, when it happens, are hard to overstate.

What Is Blockchain For Books?

So far, blockchain has attracted most interest as the system that underwrites digital currencies like Bitcoin but it is also likely to underwrite the next disruption in publishing, and likely in a way that will be even more disruptive than the digital revolution.

– Copyright

Blockchain and other hypertext (software systems that allow extensive cross-referencing between related sections of text and associated graphics) supercede copyright protection. Piracy becomes more difficult as the blockchain cryptographically time- and person-stamps the act of publication (and, indeed, of creation through all the stages of the process, if we want). Ownership becomes indisputable.

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In the same way as the blockchain records where a bitcoin is at any given moment, and who owns it, blockchain enables us to record the ownership of any asset, physical or intellectual, and trade ownership of that asset.

– Smart Contracts

Following on from clear ownership are contract rights and property rights.  Automated “smart” contracts will be able to simultaneously represent ownership of an intellectual property and the conditions that come with that ownership. They can automate rules, checking conditions and take actions with a minimum of human involvement and cost.

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Smart contracts have the potential to seriously disrupt the legal system and make legal enforcement of copyright affordable for all.

– Smart Wallets

Amazon and other digital platforms and trade publishers and — more interestingly — booksellers and wholesalers will also pay into this author-owned smart wallet. Author-owned smart wallets will make it easy for readers to make micropayments for a single article, small video or podcast episode.

The wallet will be more than just a payment method, though. It will also serve as a connective hub for all the people who feed into the making of a book. (service providers, like editors and designers, but also the coffee shop where much of the book was written, the retreat centre that provided a getaway for thinking, the foundation that provided a grant, the rights buyer who turned it into a film, or print edition; the authors mentors and role models, their local bookshop… and so on. At the moment, all this information is scattered.

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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.

– Privacy

In the same way that we can now send cash to somebody through the internet without an intermediary (bank or financial institution) using bitcoin, so we are enabled to send messages to each other, without Gmail or iMessage, Facebook or Twitter “owning”  or having access to what we say.

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The blockchain allows us to forward a book, directly from author to reader, without any middle-man, freely or for bitcoin exchange

ALLi’s role

As a non-profit authors’ association ALLi will advocate for, and help create, an author-centric financial model, which maximizes the value of the authors’ moral and monetary rights and intellectual property.

To have artists and writers at the bottom of the creative payment heap doesn’t make sense. The money flow should begin with the creator and the creator should be the entry point for everyone.

This is what blockchain can provide… to a point.


We currently have a committee doing an analysis of what is possible and drawing up a White Paper of recommendations. Stay tuned.

Opinion Article by Orna Ross on our Self-Publishing Advice Center

Digital text, books and media are currently being re-imagined in ways that are likely to have a big impact on authors and author earnings, says Orna Ross, Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors. It’s Self-Publishing 3.0 and we need to understand what’s coming if we are to have a say in how it develops and ensure authors don’t lose out.

Indie Authors: Are We Ready for Self-Publishing 3.0? Part 1.