Authors might have heard of Bitcoin, but Blockchain?
Technology never stands still, and as self-publishing uses technology, it will always change and evolve. In the not too distant future, Blockchain technology could be a big game changer for self-publishing.
While Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are in the news, they are not even remotely connected to ebooks, books and self-publishing at present.
However, due to the technology that is behind these currencies, there are those who are starting to see how the technology of Blockchain could one day be applied to help authors, self-publishers and even large publishers cut out the middleman, or the retailer in the case of books, and sell books directly to the reader.
At present, the Bitcoin market is very confusing for a beginner, and not at all applicable to selling books. Even the seemingly simple task of understanding what fees are payable on a single Bitcoin transaction is beyond the comprehension of most people.
But Bitcoin today is not where the future lies in publishing. The future is in the technology that runs Bitcoin, which is called Blockchain.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain, in essence, is a computer algorithm, or program, that works by distributing data, such as in the case of managing electronic currency, but without a central administrator.
The following video from the World Economic Forum explains the basic concepts, and possible future uses of Blockchain technology.
How could Blockchain work for book sales?
The base application for authors and publishers will be what is called a Smart Wallet.
This electronic wallet will be able to accept small payments, or micro-payments, which relate well to the price of an ebook, article or even a podcast.
Within the wallet, automatic transactions can be added, to perhaps make a payment to a translator or co-author on the arrival of each sale for a particular ebook.
It can also be used to assign and protect copyright, as well as be used as a secure messaging platform.
For a more in-depth look at what Blockchain may be able to offer authors and publishers in the future, The Alliance of Independent Authors has written a very good article on the possible applications of Blockchain technology for books.
If you would like a more technical based explanation, this article from Blockgeeks gives a good beginners guide to Blockchain.
What does the future hold for authors, books and self-publishing?
As with all new technologies, it takes time before real day-to-day applications become standard practice.
In other words, it may well take years before there is a Blockchain application that every self-published author can use on a daily basis to distribute and sell ebooks.
However, it is worth remembering that the technology we use today to self-publish is still very young, and constantly changing and adapting.
In the future, Blockchain could prove to be a disruptive technology that will change the way ebooks, in particular, are distributed, and possibly challenge the monopolies that ebook retailers currently hold in the market.
It has the potential to cut out the middleman, of course, but can authors and self-publishers build platforms large enough to benefit from the technology?
At present, it is entirely possible to use a payment service such as Paypal to handle reader to author direct ebook purchases, but we know that this rarely works in reality.
Today’s ebook buyer is generally programmed to trust large retailers such as Amazon or Apple, and may not even have a Paypal account.
One-click ebook buying is generally what ebook buyers prefer to use today.
But in the future, Blockchain will allow one-click buying from a user’s Smart Wallet.
If you check your smartphone, you will find that on most phones, there is already a Smart Wallet application, so the future may not be as far away as we think.
Blockchain and Bitcoin are not going to change self-publishing tomorrow, but it is very easy to guess that in the not too distant future, they will, and they will be highly disruptive to the publishing and book market.
Does the technology have the potential to change the current monopoly of Amazon in the book market? Yes, possibly, but then again, Amazon has always been able to adapt, change and integrate new technologies to its advantage.
It is worth knowing that the reason Amazon does not allow the use of Paypal to make purchases, is because Paypal is owned by eBay, which is a direct competitor.
However, as Blockchain is an open source application, there is the possibility that Amazon could integrate blockchain into its payment system.
Should that happen, there may still be benefits for authors in areas such as copyright protection and instant royalty payments, but Amazon would still hold the power to sell, as it does today.
The only certainty is that there will be change, change and more change in self-publishing in the coming few years.
Update: If you think blockchain is in the distance future, perhaps you should check publica.io – a new blockchain publisher.