Book.io is using blockchain technology to bring books into the Web3 future. At first I didn’t understand why “blockchain books” would be any better or different than any other digital book, but after a great conversation with @JasonManske at the Books.io booth at @RareEvo, I am convinced!
Using the Books.io Platform, both authors and publishers can release digital and audio books for purchase, and readers can buy them. In this way, it is like any other media marketplace. However, when you look behind the curtain, everything is different, for everyone.
For readers of digital books, Book.io makes ownership akin to owning a printed book: it cannot be stolen, retracted, or changed. The digital item that you buy is in fact an NFT - a unique file on the blockchain that defines ownership of digital goods. In this case the digital good is a book. The book itself isn’t stored on the blockchain - blockchains are generally not meant to store large files. Instead, Book.io leverages IPFS, the most popular solution for decentralized storage of files related to blockchain transactions[https://www.lidonation.com/en/posts/beyond-blocks]. Book.io books are sharded and encrypted on IPFS. By using “pinning” services on IPFS, Book.io guarantees your book will be available for at least 100 years (soon to be increased to a 200 year guarantee).
No matter what socio-political winds may blow, your book cannot be censored, whether in whole or in part.
For current “normal” ebook licenses, the standard lease length is 30 years. If in that time your book is sold to another publisher (a common occurrence), your book disappears. With blockchain, only you can choose to burn your assets.
Books can and do get changed - whether in reaction to censorship, pushback, or other influences. The digital age makes this threat more relevant than ever. If a book exists primarily/only in digital format, on centralized servers, your book can be changed at any time, without notification. Books that are sharded and encrypted on IPFS, owned outright by the wallet that holds the NFT, cannot be changed.
Since readers own their books, they can also share them or sell them. To share it with your mom, just send the book NFT to her wallet, and it will pop up in the library on her e-reader. To sell it, just list it on any digital marketplace. When this technology becomes ubiquitous on everyone’s phone, I think you could even sell them at a garage sale!
For authors, Books.io offers the opportunity to publish and share in revenue without a middleman. In this way it’s not much different than self-publishing. However, blockchain also enables some new tools for authors that were never possible before.
Because book ownership is represented by an NFT, authors can get a share of sale revenue not just at this initial sale, but every time someone buys or sells their book!
Customize & Interact
This new model offers authors a unique ability to interact with their audience and customize their work. This can be as simple as a numbered limited edition of a book. Authors could offer a custom dedication page for loyal readers. Books for children and families could easily be personalized to reflect the names, pets or location details that would most delight them. For creators, the sky is the limit.
For Publishers & Printers
At first it may seem that publishers & printers stand only to lose from this transformation, but in fact these entities have been some of the earliest and biggest investors in the Book.io project.
Although the ability to self-publish is great, publishers still offer authors and readers a valuable service. Authors benefit from working with professional agents, editors, and marketing departments. They help to make an author’s work the best it can be, and to reach its widest audience. Avid readers learn to love and trust publishing houses who have a knack for cultivating books they love. Publishers who choose to partner with Book.io will share in the revenue, so the benefits to them are just as simple as that.
Digital books may seem to leave printers out in the cold, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Some people will alway prefer to put their hands on a printed paper copy of certain books; whether because they like to highlight passages and jot notes in the margins, display it proudly, or just inhale the smell of musty pages. You could buy a book on Book.io, and then choose to convert it to print. By partnering with this project, printers can be a part of the digital future.
But there’s more
Since this is blockchain, the project also includes a token. Users can buy $BOOK tokens directly or trade for them on a DEX, but readers will also be able to earn them when they buy and read books. For example, readers may earn 1 $BOOK token for each page they read in the e-reader app. Tokens can then be used on the platform to buy discounted books, or access other perks. Authors and publishers on the platform can run their own promotions based on the token. It’s a lot like a loyalty program, with all the flexibility and security inherent in blockchain.
There are other projects that have attempted to bring books and blockchain together, but none has yet had the transformative vision of the Book.io project. Other projects are granting access to digital books via token gating. In these cases, the books are being accessed from a centralized server, and are therefore still subject to change, censorship, and retraction.
Book.io already offers a beautiful app that works on iPhone, Android, and some e-readers. The first eBook they published was the Gutenberg Bible, in honor of the first mass-produced book to roll off of Gutenberg’s press. More books are being added to the library all the time. Support for audio books is coming soon; this and other forthcoming features can be viewed on their roadmap. They are blockchain agnostic, and already support Cardano, Algorand, Ethereum, and Polygon.
I decided to give it all a try for this article, and all I can really say is it worked great. I downloaded the app, connected it to my Cardano wallet, and bought a book for a few ada. My book has a unique number, rather like a serial number representing the singular copy of this book that I now own, sharded and encrypted on IPFS. When I open it up, it looks just like any other digital book, with pictures and everything.
You can participate now by downloading the free app, browsing the store, and buying a book. $BOOK tokens are also on sale, if you’d like to support the project in that way. If you are an author, there is currently a waiting list to get published on the platform, as the team is hard at work on the infrastructure that will support massive scaling - but you can join the waiting list now! Publishers and others in the book industry who want to explore what a partnership could mean for them should reach out; there is a dedicated form for these inquiries on the site.