Hello everyone and welcome to today’s first ever post of my new series, Well, I Didn’t Know That! For today’s post, I’m sharing information I learned from an article in Writing Magazine (October edition, pg. 5) that indicates how financial technology have future impact the publishing world.
If you want to find out about the series, you can check out the link to the Well, I Didn’t Know That! introduction post. I’ll also be keeping an index there of historical posts in the series, as well as update it with future topics. Of course, if you’d like to take part in Well, I Didn’t Know That! for yourself, I’d be thrilled. Please just link to my introduction page so I can check it out and readers can find out about the series.
Whilst the article of today’s feature focuses on textbooks sales (as they are more expensive than most books and frequently sold on after use by students), it is clear the whole publishing world will latch onto this idea if it works.
The article title is listed below if you wish to read it for yourself.
Textbook Publishers Plan Tech to Control Secondhand Market
If you are familiar with the financial market, you may have heard of technology called blockchain. It’s commonly associated with the likes of digital art or cryptocurrencies. I won’t go into any of the boring detail, because I’m not going to pretend I understand the ins and outs of it. I will, however, try to summarise simply so you get a feel for how the technology publishers wants to use works now.
Cryptocurrencies are unregulated investments, and the trading of these digital assets is done through blockchain. Blockchain, put simply, is a decentralised system that records transactions. In order to record these transactions, the digital assets being re-registered need to have a non-fungible token (NFT) – in basic terms, a unique identifier which certifies proof of ownership. This is the technology publishers want to harness.
Publishers lose out on second hand sales and exchanges of digital assets. Whilst it is certainly not encouraged, there are currently no restrictions on sharing digital copies of books with others. That could well change if publishers can successfully harness this technology.
By embedding NFT’s – the unique identifiers – into ebooks and any other digital asset, it is possible to restrict access to just the individual recorded as the owner of the digital asset. With this change, publishers can prevent unauthorised access to these documents. They cannot be shared as is currently possible.
What do publishers gain?
These changes will inevitably have an impact on first-hand sales, as these digital assets can no longer be owned and accessed by more than one individual at a time. However, it appears from the article that they are primarily targeting second-hand sales too. How will they do it?
With the use of the unique identifier, digital assets are registered to a singular owner. If an individual wanted to transfer their ebook etc to another person, it would need to be re-registered at a decentralised location to enable the new owner to access it. The publisher benefits as they can impose fees to do so. By imposing these fees, they can set minimum re-sale values of their books and in taking a cut, gain a source of revenue that they are currently not tapping into at all.
What does it mean for us?
If the technology proves successful and publishers decide to outlay the costs necessary to implement the technology, it will inevitably mean paying more for second-hand assets. As digital books don’t degrade or have any wear-and-tear as physical ones do, it’s justifiable that the cost of such an asset should be a lot closer to retail value. And the trouble is, publishers will have the power to dictate that.
Arguably, this would take time and money to implement. And, for the majority of books, we’re not talking mega bucks. It is more exaggerated in the case of textbooks, because they are pricey to begin with.
I doubt we will be seeing this change coming into force anytime soon. However, I found this article interesting in that it shows how the publishing world flouts it’s stereotypical ‘traditional’ image by embracing new, developing technology.