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 cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and are in the news, they are not even remotely connected to ebooks, books, and self-publishing at present.
But due to the technology that is behind these currencies, some are starting to see how Blockchain could one day apply to books and ebooks.
This could help authors, self-publishers, and even large publishers cut out the middleman.
That is the retailer in the case of ebooks. It would enable authors and book publishers to sell ebooks 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 the publishing industry.
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 uses a chain of blocks to validate transactions.
It works by distributing data, such as in the case of managing transaction data and electronic currency, but without a central administrator.
The following video is from the World Economic Forum.
It explains the basic concepts, and possible future uses of Blockchain-based technology.
How could Blockchain work for book sales?
The base application for authors and publishers will be what is called a Smart Wallet or a Smart Contract.
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 for parties involved. This would be useful 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 intellectual property and copyright, as well 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 an excellent 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 beginner’s guide to Blockchain.
As with all new technologies in the digital age, it takes time before real day-to-day applications become standard practice and are added to business models.
In other words, it may well take years before there is a Bitcoin 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 continuously changing and adapting.
In the future, Blockchain and the Bitcoin network could prove to be a disruptive technology that will change the way we sell digital assets like ebooks.
In particular, how ebooks are distributed. It could 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 a Blockchain network large enough to benefit from the technology?
At present, it is possible to use a payment service such as Paypal to handle reader to author direct ebook purchases by credit card. But we know that this rarely works in reality.
Today’s ebook buyer is generally programmed to trust large retailers like Amazon or Apple, and may not even have a Paypal account.
Easy and simple one-click ebook buying is usually what most 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 perhaps the future may not be as far away as we think.
Distributed ledger technology such as Blockchain and Bitcoin is not going to change self-publishing tomorrow.
But it is very easy to guess that in the not too distant future, they could. They would be highly disruptive to the publishing and book market and supply chain.
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 the reason Amazon does not allow the use of Paypal to make purchases. It is because eBay once owned Paypal, which is a direct competitor.
However, Blockchain is an open-source application. There is the possibility that Amazon could integrate Blockchain ebooks 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 distant future, perhaps you should check publica.io – a new blockchain publisher.