The books are not yet finished. Blockchain technology is used in many creative industries to protect royalties and copyrights. But now it could also help book publishers to increase their profits by using new innovations.
Australian book publishers are grappling with a global disruption. They are also facing huge changes in their industry. Digital technologies are changing the whole paradigm. There is a lot of economic uncertainty in the industry. But there could be a way out. Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are studying how blockchain technology can help them not only survive, but also thrive.
Associate Professor Mark Ryan of the Faculty of Creative Industries at QUT is leading the project. His team has developed a world first in the book industry. It is a prototype blockchain system for digital rights management and royalty distribution. This will hopefully open the door for small publishers to new business opportunities.
The collaboration also had a real world editor on board. Brisbane-based micro-publisher Tiny Owl Workshop donated their prose. This was supported by researchers from the Faculties of Creative Industries, Law, and Science and Engineering at QUT.
Professor Ryan said: “There is a lack of practical research on how publishers can benefit from blockchain, as well as authors and other creatives, as well as other cultural institutions such as libraries and archives. So, we worked with Tiny Owl Workshop to create additional value from the IP publishing houses generated during book creation. A new digital edition of the new No need to stop is the result.
“Blockchain technology underpins cryptocurrency. It is used for the management of rights and royalties for many industries. For example, the distribution of music and the tracking of products like beef, diamonds and the sale of works of art. There is a limited but growing volume of research and innovative technological experiments that focus on blockchain for book publishing. But, most of them aim to allow authors to self-publish and collect royalties. “
New sources of income
Sue Wright is the director of Tiny Owl Workshop. She said the project allowed Tiny Owl to create new sources of income and royalties. In this case, it came from the interactions between the author and the publishing house. This “extra” intellectual property is something all publishers create when they try to get books to market. And that’s what can be put up for sale using blockchain technology.
Wright said, “We took intellectual property behind the scenes. The editorial team created it during the development of the new No need to stop, written by Brisbane author Samuel Maguire. Then, three new paratexts were designed as an “educational edition” for writers and students of creative writing. The most important is the “Editor’s Bundle”. It includes the original manuscript, modifications, and correspondence between the publisher, Harlan Ambrose, the author and the publisher.
Books and blockchain: protecting copyright
Another outcome of the project was the creation of a prototype blockchain system. It’s for rights management and royalty distribution. It triggers micro-payments through smart contracts to all creative professionals involved in the writing and publishing process.
Professor Ryan said, “Using open source blockchain technology, the project managed intellectual property agreements and royalty payments, and tracked purchases with a personalized digital ledger. “
The project also resulted in a tracking system that records the sale of physical books. This is made possible by the design of a marketing hip belt that contains a QR code.
“This code provides buyers of the physical book with a free download of an Education Edition digital bundle. It links physical book purchases in bookstores with online downloads. And, it provides a ledger of where customer transactions originate from.
“Working with blockchain remains a very technical and complex process. Our project required in-depth knowledge of information technology, information systems and coding, as well as legal expertise and an understanding of the creative aspects of book publishing.
Dr Michael Adams works in the School of Information Systems in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. He developed the prototype of the open source blockchain system for the project. “The prototype coordinates complex communications between a browser-based user interface, the YAWL business process management system, and the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain platform. “
The books are not yet finished. Even the traditional (and even somewhat stuffy) book publishing industry can benefit from blockchain technology. When the old and the new meet, surely interesting things can happen.
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