Amazon disrupted publishing in the first wave of the Internet. Could this behemoth now be disrupted and decentralised by pebbles on a Blockchain?
Today’s interviewees are Josef Marc, whose background in digital media and interest in Bitcoin led him to investigate ways to make the technology work for others, and Sukhi Jutla, author of three books, two by ‘conventional methods’ and the latest, ‘Escape the Cubicle – Quit the Job You Hate, Create the Life You Love’, the first in the world to be published on the blockchain.
As Sukhi says to those who question her: “I wasn’t rejected by publishers - I rejected them!”
The biggest issue for authors is, of course, getting their books to an audience. Even selling via what Josef calls ‘the A word’ and refers to as ‘the Amazon graveyard’, books get posted and then just sit. It’s up to the author to do the promoting.
And even if a sale is made, and notified (eventually), Amazon keeps quite a chunk and the money doesn’t hit the author’s bank account for anything up to 6 months.
Josef’s project is Publica, built on the blockchain for authors to sell or self-publish in return for a simple 10% fee of sales to keep the platform running. Authors put a book, even a draft or a chapter or whatever they want to sell to their audience, onto the platform, or run a book ICO, and sell their token - yes, a real book token - in a smart contract, managed entirely by themselves. Including the price. And when a sale is made, the reader immediately gets the access key in their wallet and the author gets instant payment in theirs in Publica’s Pebblecoin.
Sukhi says there are three excitingly different things about publishing this way. Firstly, you have a one-to-one contact with the reader, in that there is no third party taking a cut. The second is that the digital files have a resale value, which you can set at the time of your smart contract. In normal life, when a book gets given away or sold, that’s it for the author - no more value. And thirdly, many people don’t know this but Amazon only has reach in 96% of the world - so even a behemoth like that can’t be truly global.
And as Josef says, if you run an ICO for your book, taking advance orders which fund you to finish and distribute it to your fans, it is not like publishing and waiting for the sales to happen - you can even use your Publica page as your only website for the project. And running an ICO is much more of a conversation-starter with your fans than just selling via the Amazon mass-grave.
Sukhi said she set aside an hour to set up her digital wallet, she was worried about the complexity of the technology. Ten minutes later, it was done. And a minute after that she had the app downloaded from the AppStore and she was ready to go.
Her advice to other authors? It’s really simple. If this brings another way to distribute your work to a wider global audience, that has to be a good thing. And if it puts you at the centre of the financial transaction - even better! It allows authors and creatives to be empowered.
- The advantage for the online retailers is they take up the long tail - shelf space costs them nothing.
- Publica wants to be truly global, it doesn’t matter where a buyer is, where an author is, but you can still build a community without meeting.
- Because the transaction is on the blockchain, both sides don’t have to trust the team, the relationship is transparent, it’s all in the smart contract and the book will be there forever.
- The smart contract is your storefront, on the blockchain forever.
- An ICO is like kickstarting your book, getting your fans to vote with their wallets.
- You could even take the proof of pre-sales to a conventional publisher if you wish, to show the project has legs.
- The blockchain is becoming the superhighway of commerce
- Their first ICO was for travel blogger and writer Nomadic Matt (Matthew Kepner) who raised $10,000 in three weeks by selling 1,000 $10 tokens.
- Using the Publica site is simple, fill in basic details and start your project, upload your content link, pictures, and a story as to why you are publishing by this route to encourage engagement with your audience.
- If you buy a book, you can put it on different devices, you own it.
- The digital wallets explains prices in USD and Pebblecoin so it is transparent.
- This is a forever library!