Blockchain – An Intersection Of Publishing and Technology

    Fact checked by Vahe Arabian
    Vahe Arabian

    Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and… Read more

    Edited by Vahe Arabian
    Vahe Arabian

    Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and…Read more

    Blockchain publishing

    Paulina Kubala-Chuchnowska holds a position of Marketing Specialist at PressPad Digital Publishing, a company that creates mobile magazine apps, digital newsstands for PDF issues, and...Read more

    The publishing industry, with the entry into the digital world, adapted the whole of the online heritage. It means that publishers get not only benefits like additional sources of revenue, but also they have to take into account constant changes related to technological improvement.

    Having released articles about bots and voice technology in publishing, I decided to go through the blockchain topic. In this article, I try to answer two questions: what is a blockchain really? could this IT issue have any application in publishing houses? 

    A solid dose of knowledge awaits you.

    What exactly is blockchain technology? 

    A blockchain is a type of digital data store that keeps anything of online value like transactions and collects information together in groups, also known as blocks. Every transaction is stored in a block which is added to a chain of existing records.

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    This technology is already used across several different industries, e.g.: financial services, healthcare, education, and even publishing. Its dynamic default features can genuinely bring freedom, transparency, and security to many industries, including these mentioned above.

    Does it sound complicated?

    Simon Pierre-Marion (the CEO and founder of Scenarex, a Canadian company that builds blockchain publishing solutions) describes it clearly

    He compares blockchain technologies to the ledger, in which the accountant records all the transactions that his customers do.

    “It’s like a big book where you store all of the information from transactions that are happening. And when I say a big book here, you have to realize that we’re talking about a digital world. So it’s, in fact, a database, which is a system where you store data. (…) It’s a database where you store information. The interesting aspect, though, of blockchain is that you cannot modify it, it cannot be tampered with. So as when you record a transaction in a blockchain, it’s there forever. It cannot be hacked or changed or delete. It’s there.”

    It’s worth noting that in fact, publishers and authors don’t need to understand the technical details of blockchain to appreciate its potential. How many things do you use on a daily basis without realizing how they really work?

    Blockchain is the answer to the challenges of digital publishing

    The fact that blockchain isn’t so popular in publishing yet, doesn’t mean that it’s useless. Blockchain can bring enormous benefits to publishing houses, academic publications, self-publishers, and authors, the more so, all of these sectors have moved to digital. The world of online magazines and ebooks is all about selling and buying content, and thus making online transactions. 

    That’s why blockchain and digital publishing are a perfect match. 

    However, it’s not only a matter of paying for online content. The blockchain can also be used to ensure that a given transaction is assigned to a specific user.

    Let’s take a closer look at the benefits that blockchain can bring to the publishing industry.

    According to Sebastian Posth, blockchain technology may work in the publishing space at four points. These are:

    • micropayments and transaction settlement,
    • copyright protection and support for DRM (Digital Rights Management),
    • distribution, production, peer-review,
    • pre-sales, crowdfunding or otherwise raising funds.

    We can find similar conclusions in two articles published on Disruptor Daily and Sheridan. On this basis, it can be indicated that there are two main directions in which blockchain can revolutionize publishing. These are the improvement of payment systems and the protection of copyrights.

    Better payment options for content creators

    In general, blockchain technology reduces the need for a middleman in the process of payment, which means more money for creators like writers, photographers, or editors. As a result, the time for payment processing is shorter, and making the accounts is just easier. Smart contracts, possible thanks to blockchain, help with automatically release payment whenever publishers accept the content.

    In what cases will blockchain actually facilitate and improve the payment process? The Disruptor Daily author pointed out the following situations:

    • Paywalls/subscription models even if it’s a growing trend, not every publisher wants to implement it. The blockchain is an alternative because it allows readers to just view a single article, without seeing countless ads to get to what they’re trying to read. The publisher or author can charge only for individual pieces of content, which is a nod to readers who don’t want to pay for the whole issue to check only a short fragment.
    • Use-based payment system the blockchain can improve and speed up the payment process thanks to connecting digital wallets to publishing platforms which could pass along revenues as soon as an article is liked, shared, etc. It is enough to appreciate the author’s work to ensure him a reward.
    • Book ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) it allows organizing a crowdfunding event for the writing and launch of a literary work. Readers can buy tokens issued by the prospective author and then redeem those coins to acquire a copy of the work once it’s complete.

    Help with digital property management

    Blockchain can be a catalyst for the digital publishing platforms popularity by providing intellectual property rights. Thanks to this system, readers are not able to sell or even share the publication with someone else.

    Some of the digital e-kiosks (like PressPad Store) operate on similar principles, preventing the uncontrolled spread of publications. People can’t share the files, or post them on torrent sites for free downloading by others – they can read in the browser without downloading a PDF file.

    These kinds of ways of publishing prevent people from sharing content with other people and prevent authors from earning royalties on secondary sales.

    According to Disruptor Daily, blockchain has four tactics for preventing content:

    • content distribution platforms these linked to the blockchain can carry benefits in terms of detecting and preventing piracy and unauthorized sharing; it’s also a good solution for beginner authors because it keeps a greater cut of their sales figures;
    • decentralized publishing and usage rights (for self-published authors) making the establishment, issuance, and licensing of rights to work can be clear and immutable through customizable licenses completely under the author-publisher’s control; 
    • decentralized publishing and usage rights (for publishers) the blockchain can help publishers retain a particular set of rights, and adjust those rights specifically to maximize the potential revenues from their existing deals; publishers may be able to woo a more attractive segment of self-publishers and reduce the illegal resale of their works thanks to rights stores;
    • better collaboration/rights assignment for scholarly journals/articles the blockchain may help lower the cost for all parties; it is by providing content to securely collaborate and oversee their work in real-time, provide immediate attribution for each contributor, and would also streamline the peer review process.

    What’s more, blockchain is the most secure way of storing data/content electronically. When the publication is written, it can’t be changed without leaving behind a trace. The blockchain system records every action, so no one can duplicate or steal it to grab profits from the author’s work. The same applies to the publication of fake news. Blockchain can trace content origins back to its creator. Thanks to this, the impostor who creates fake news can be disclosed. 

    Challenges for implementing blockchain

    Despite the fact that the range of benefits that publishers can derive from blockchain is large, this technology has not yet entered mainstream use. It is too early to give specific statistics and figures with regard to its use by publishers. So far, most uses are still experimental. Why is this happening?

    Even if the blockchain is an exciting technology packed with possibilities and potential, it’s not free of challenges. Firstly, it should be understanding how to effectively put it to use in publishing. Secondly, the implementation is challenging. Unfortunately, blockchain is expensive to implement and requires a great deal of storage. Using it effectively requires talented experts to hire. 

    The hype over the blockchain is real and it is justified. This direction will become more popular for sure. There is a need for publishers and authors to benefit from the blockchain, and for you now is important to see and be aware of that need.



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