Blockchain Could Put Authors At Center of Publishing Universe
The Alliance of Independent Authors Releases A White Paper on the Potential of Blockchain Technology in Publishing and Creates History’s first Blockchain Bestseller
LONDON, April 17, 2018 — Blockchain technology looks set to facilitate the next disruption in the publishing industry, according to Authors and the Blockchain: Towards a Creator-Centered Business Model, a white paper just released by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
If this decentralized technology fulfills its promise, the outcome could be a creator-led publishing industry.
While indie authors, and the companies that serve them, are a growing presence and power in publishing, large corporate intermediaries such as Amazon still stand between authors and their readers and dominate the self-publishing marketplace. Blockchain tech may help to build the road that leads to true independence for self-publishers.
The study, released at the London Book Fair by ALLi, a global nonprofit association of self-published authors, outlines the ways in which blockchain could, through direct tracking of authors’ intellectual property and monetary rights, and decentralized commerce, create a new ecosystem which places authors at the head of the payment chain for the first time in publishing history.
Listen to our Ask ALLi IndieVoices Podcast on Blockchain and Self-Publishing 3.0
The paper does not delve into issues surrounding value fluctuations and regulation of cryptocurrency markets. This is all about how cryptocurrency’s underlying blockchain technology could enable huge changes in authors’ control over their work. It’s part of a larger trend that ALLi is calling Self-Publishing 3.0*, in which intermediaries sit within a wider author business framework, that includes direct sales, crowdsourced patronage, subscriptions, membership and other digital business models, tools and techniques that directly connect author and reader.
“Self-publishing 3.0 is seeing authors establishing sustainable publishing business models, with a clear understanding of how to trade their intellectual property rights in a digital age,” said Orna Ross, ALLi’s founder and director. “There’s a growing recognition that dependence on Amazon is no healthier for authors than dependence on trade publishers. It’s now ten years since the Kindle was introduced but it will take more than a decade to overturn centuries of conditioning. What happens in the coming decade is key and I am hopeful. I see a great growth in confidence within the author community, thanks to self-publishing.”
Among the topics covered in the ALLi white paper: How blockchain works for authors, particularly when it comes to licensing and rights management, and micropayments. And recommendations on how authors can set up sustainable publishing businesses to benefit from the direct sales opportunities already available in today’s Self-Publishing 3.0 environment.
The paper also contains some warnings. ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway points out that there is no guarantee that blockchain technology will fulfill its promise to authors, as the technology is not yet fully developed and new intermediaries may emerge. He urges vigilance by authors. “Just as the Internet threw up Amazon to take away its peer-to-peer marketplace focus without us really noticing, so blockchain will likely throw up really useful enabling platforms that will take a cut in return for the service,” Holloway writes. “Authors must educate themselves to understand what’s at stake.”
ALLi Author Member Sukhi Jutla, one of the paper’s main authors, compares Amazon to a giant supermarket that makes it convenient for creators and consumers, but at a price. Blockchain can help to further a more author-centric model. “If you have more direct access to your consumer, then you’re going to have greater control,” Jutla said. “I think that’s what is very exciting about blockchain: how it brings that situation closer.”
Jutla’s recent book, Escape The Cubicle: Quit The Job You Hate became the world’s first “blockchain bestseller” at the ALLi launch, when blockchain publisher Publica.io, an ALLi Partner Member, set the book live on the Google Play store.
Key to availing of all that Self-Publishing 3.0 has to offer, including blockchain for books, is an independent mindset, said Ross, which she describes as an author’s truest asset. “This is what gives us an understanding of our true value to our readers. This is what allows us to work as equals with other partners, be that trade publishers, or self-publishing services, or other creative professionals. This is what allows us to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of digital publishing.”
ALLi will continue to provide direction, advice, and support to authors interested in maximizing their income, influence and impact through the blockchain era and beyond, she said.
About ALLi: The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is a global association of the world’s best self-publishing authors and advisors. Rapidly growing, this global, nonprofit organisation brings together the world’s authors, advisors and vetted services, offering contacts and campaigns, education and member benefits — together with trusted guidance on how to self-publish well.
* Note: Self-publishing 1.0 was desktop publishing. Self-publishing 2.0 was ebooks and online bookstores. Self-publishing 3.0 is sustainable business models for authors. Source: The Alliance of Independent Authors.
Self-Publishing 3.0 and Blockchain in the News
Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly
History was made at the 2018 London Book Fair—at a Tuesday afternoon session, Josef Marc, CEO of upstart blockchain publisher Publica, announced that the company had just gone live in the Google Play Store with author Sukhi Jutla’s Escape The Cubicle: Quit The Job You Hate—in effect, Marc said, creating the world’s first #1 title on the “blockchain bestseller” list. at a panel packed with curious authors and publishers at the 2018 London Book Fair, The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) handed out its just-released white paper “Authors and the Blockchain: Towards a Creator Centered Business Model,” and heard from a panel of experts and early adopters. More here.
Joanne Cleaver, ThirtyK.com
The Alliance of Independent Authors just launched its Blockchain for Books campaign and has published a white paper assessing the technology’s potential. The association says blockchain and other hypertext software systems “supercede copyright protection” and prevent piracy by providing “indisputable” proof of ownership. By supporting smart contracts, the technology puts intellectual property rights back in the hands of authors, the association adds. Howard Lovy, managing editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors, tells ThirtyK that artificial intelligence and other “discoverability algorithms” could eventually bridge the author-reader gap more effectively than the current systems of keyword searches and sales figures. More here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The blockchain allows us to forward a book, directly from author to reader, without any middle-man, freely or for bitcoin exchange
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.
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.