Does Cryptocurrency Belong In Publishing?

The crypto bros cannot be stopped.


The crypto bros cannot be stopped.

The other day, I was scrolling through Twitter, as I am wont to do, when I came across several people tweeting hot takes about the same article from Esquire, titled, “The Crypto Revolution Wants to Reimagine Books.”

And this article, well… it was very interesting, so I wanted to walk through it and talk about my thoughts.

What is cryptocurrency and web3?

I am not a crypto expert, so I’d advise you further consult outside sources (like this Forbes article here), but essentially, cryptocurrency is an internet-based currency system that is decentralized, meaning it’s not controlled by any one single authority.

Web3, also referred to as Web 3.0, is the hypothetical “stage” of the Internet in which users are able to own things and blockchain is widely used. This is in contrast to Web 1.0, the earliest stage of the internet, when most pages were static and read-only, and Web 2.0, the stage we are mostly considered to be in today, in which user-generated content is the norm, and control is centralized in big tech.

The Article:

It opens with a rather intriguing premise:

Okay, so here we have a proposal for a book STOCK MARKET. I have to say this is a very creative idea and it’s some interesting out of the box thinking, but I have some qualms about it. The problem is that this would completely commercialize literature, to an extent that we don’t see right now.

Yes, literature already is very commercialized, but this would just make it even more commercialized– and art, in a perfect world, shouldn’t be like that. It would also lead to conflict of interests, as reviewers would have to disclose whether or not they’ve invested money into a particular book before giving it a good review. All good reviews would be suspect. And all bad reviews would too, because maybe you’re trying to drive the price down to sell your shares.

I also just don’t like the idea of making books into this kind of explicitly capitalistic commodity. I don’t know. Of course, books are already ingrained in capitalism. Books that appeal to the masses already do better than everything else. If this went into effect I’d know right away to buy a ton of shares in the next faerie porn book to hit the market. But something about this idea rubs me the wrong way.

The article goes on to discuss how this kind of a system could be managed using blockchain and cryptocurrency. It discusses a publishing platform called Mirror, which is based on web3, and speculates on how this kind of business model could change the future of publishing and whether writing could become a more lucrative business if we sold books as NFTs.

One interesting point raised was that this model would make it possible for the author to benefit from secondary sales of the books.

Then the topic shifts to fanfiction and the implications for that realm:

This is such an interesting idea, and it actually makes a lot of sense. That way authors could benefit from fanfiction and so could the writers on AO3 or whatever other fanfiction websites there are (I don’t read fanfiction). The problem, though, is that it sounds like you could have to pay to use the characters. Which, again, kind of crushes the spirit of art under the weight of the economy.

The rest of the article talks about other possibilities, like the startup Adim, which aims to create a sort of reservoir of characters based on web3, and speculates about whether this new futuristic vision of publishing will ever get off the ground.

To be honest, this all sounds very complicated but also VERY COOL. I’m still not sure how I feel about this hyper-commodification of literature, and I’m still rather retro in that I like to read to get *off* the Internet, but this is very forward-thinking and I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it. Crypto seems to get a lot of hate from people, but I do think we may be witnessing the beginning of something big. And while I’m not sure I will be one to spend time in the Metaverse, I can’t say that it doesn’t sound interesting.

What do you think of this? Do you think cryptocurrency will ever have a place in publishing? Why or why not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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7 comments on “Does Cryptocurrency Belong In Publishing?”

  1. Yes, I think cryptocurrency and NFTs will be part of publishing in the future. I doubt it will look like anything in the article, but I don’t have my own guess as to what it will look like. I think cryptocurrency is in a tenuous spot at the moment as many governments are trying to figure out how to regulate it, which would certainly damage it in the process. So I think that might need to run its course before a lot of this type of innovation will become practical.

    NFTs, which is also blockchain but isn’t always cryptocurrency, are definitely in their infancy. I don’t think their current form has enough lasting value to change much of anything, so it was interesting to read about Mirror’s approach of mixing the too. I’ll be interested in seeing the results.

    Even if the current attempts and models fail (and I think they probably will), some form of this concept will succeed in the near future and become a part of publishing books or an option for doing so. I think the potential of blockchain is much greater than the current reality and the potential for easy licensing of IPs to fans is a going to be a big part of that.

    But I don’t think the result will feel like commodifying literature. If it didn’t it wouldn’t work and they’d try again until it did work. Wattpad and Kindle Vella could also be seen as commodifying literature, but I haven’t seen that complaint. Serialization is something that has come and gone and come again in literature so I guess it is immune to that critique. I also wouldn’t be surprised if serialization and blockchain profit sharing are merged into a successful model.

    I haven’t tried reading anything on Wattpad or Vella (I mostly do audiobooks these days). What’s your take on those platforms?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From a theoretical perspective, I think cryptocurrency in publishing could be cool. But based on what the Web3 landscape has been like in reality, particularly with the many… issues that abound, to put it lightly, I’m not so sure. I’d go as far as to boycott any author or publisher who starts a cryptocurrency, as I wouldn’t want my money to be supporting such endeavours.

    For example, fanfiction and cryptocurrency is incredibly unlikely due to copyright and intellectual property laws. It’s already extremely dicey for people to make money off of fan creations, as the company who owns the rights can remove online listings and take legal action against creators. AO3 also doesn’t allow its users to post anything re: Patreon, Kofi, or money to avoid this kind of legal issue. Cryptocurrency isn’t likely to be any different.

    And there are also other legal issues involved too. A lot of fanfiction authors are minors, who aren’t allowed to open accounts on many cryptocurrency exchanges. Who owns the rights to the fanfiction and what happens if an author wishes to monetize their fan creation? (The Bridgerton Musical/Netflix legal situation is one example of that conundrum)

    The only situation where I could see it happening is if authors and publishers were okay with it, but in this situation it’s likely to be completely centralized so that they can maintain control. Which kind of goes against the ethos of Web3 as I understand it.

    I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Realms of Ruin before, but it’s an example of an attempt at publishing/cryptocurrency/YA that went wrong. The project doesn’t exist anymore for a lot of reasons. Legal issues were a significant concern, but also I just don’t think there’s any appetite for it within the reading community as it stands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah you raise a lot of great points about the legal complications that could arise. There’s also the problem of the ridiculous environmental effects of cryptocurrency at a time when we really should be cutting back greenhouse gases if we don’t want the planet to be ruined

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That too! From what I understand, there are some people in crypto working on dialing back the environmental effects which is nice to hear, but still. It’s kind of like – is this all necessary? What problem is this solving? What use does this have besides making some people rich?

        And I’m not even sure that crypto, at least in its current form, has anything to offer publishing or any way it can solve its problems.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah. I wrote a piece on crypto for my university’s newspaper and someone emailed me about my article saying in the future I should add that the industry is working on making it more environmentally friendly haha

        Liked by 1 person

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