If you can't lend, sell, or give away an e-book, do you own it? This burning question has hovered around the e-books business since its inception. Some e-book vendors allow a limited form of lending, but it is a far cry from handing a friend your favorite book. And there is no way to transfer ownership. Plus, given that e-books are digital products, shouldn't their publishers and authors be able to take advantage of ongoing advances in digital marketplaces?
Pioneering author-centered publisher Morgan James, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, is partnering with Publica, the cryptocurrency-based e-book publication, sales, and reading platform, to address these and other issues and give authors and readers more control over the lives of their e-books. By taking advantage of Publica's blockchain-powered platform, Morgan James, which PW has named one of the fastest-growing indie publishers multiple times, is enabling its authors to sell e-books via cryptocurrency and enabling readers to lend and resell them, creating true e-book ownership. This fall, Morgan James will roll out 200 backlist titles to join the books by New York Times bestselling author Joel Comm currently available on the blockchain through Publica.
The blockchain is a much-discussed topic of late, but it can be difficult to understand. Put simply, the blockchain is a secure, decentralized data structure used to record cryptocurrency transactions. Everyone who trades cryptocurrencies keeps a copy of the blockchain, rather than having it hosted by central financial institutions, so everyone can see who owns what, and past transactions can't be manipulated or falsified.
Publica's e-book marketplace is built around the Ethereum cryptocurrency. The platform enables authors to raise funds for their books by taking presales, during what is called a Book ICO (initial coin offering), and then to publish end-to-end through the platform, which has its own store and e-reading apps. The first two Morgan James titles to have a Book ICO ahead of their public release will be The Millennial Whisperer by Chris Tuff and Anomaly by Zack Miller.
"Both Morgan James and Publica strive to serve authors but don't want to ‘own' them," says David Hancock, founder and CEO of Morgan James. "We both work hard to provide new business models that are author-centric. Blockchain can help publishers provide authors with new levels of both security and transparency—something we have been striving to do over the last 15 years."
"Morgan James is a great partner for Publica," said Publica CEP Josef Marc in a press release announcing the deal. "Sparks flew the moment we met. I have long admired what they've done since they were named the fastest-growing new publisher. Their specialty is the world of paper books and ours is the world of e-books with a modern twist, the emerging communities who know that cryptocurrencies and blockchains are part of everyone's future. The link between paper books and Publica's blockchain innovations is now there for all to benefit from." Hancock says that in a near-future update, buyers will even be able to opt to pick up a print version of the book from a local bookseller once purchased on the blockchain.
Beyond giving authors and readers more control, blockchain, Hancock says, has many other advantages for e-books. The sales data for every book is searchable on Etherscan, the tracking tool for the Ethereum blockchain; payments are calculated automatically and directly exchanged between digital wallets; and Publica's bestseller lists rely on verifiable blockchain data, rather than opaque algorithms, to tally which books are selling best.
Hancock sees this partnership as a huge step in the publisher's ongoing mission to empower authors. "We are leading the charge by being the first publisher to offer a catalog on blockchain technology for sale with digital currency," Hancock says. He sees this as a historic moment.