Publishing startups want to use web3 and NFTs to sell shares in books

Esquire recently published a, umm, interesting piece about the crypto "revolution" that is allegedly coming to the book industry. It's a frustrating albeit strangely fascinating read, in that it presents these ideas with completely earnest cheerleading:

What if you could own a stake in Harry Potter? 

What if the book series functioned like a publicly traded company where individuals could "buy stock" in it, and as the franchise grows, those "stocks" become more valuable? If this were the case, someone who purchased just three percent of Harry Potter back when there was only one book would be a billionaire now. 

Just imagine how that would affect the reading experience. Suddenly a trip to Barnes & Noble becomes an investment opportunity. Early readers could spot "the next big thing" and make a $100 contribution that becomes $10,000 or even $100,000 if the book's popularity grows. If readers could own a percentage of the franchise, they might then be incentivized to help that book succeed. They could start a TikTok account to promote the book via BookTok, or use their talents as filmmakers to adapt it to the screen. All of this stands to increase the value of their original investment.

At some points, the author compares this scenario to Kickstarter rewards — essentially, owning a stake in the book because you're an early investor. Fine. I hate it, but fine. Granted, there is plenty I also hate about the publishing industry as it currently is, but also, okay, fine.

There is some interesting implication here about the kind of monetized gamification of fandom — using NFT ownership to "lend out" IP for fan-fiction, and encourage fans to engage with a franchise with the promise of an eventual financial payout. But this still sounds like a house of cards with a payout that depends on everyone else treating houses of cards like a viable and desirable currency. Maybe that's the trick. Maybe best case scenario is … this just replicates the existing problems of IP ownership, but with different owners, and different tools. Neat.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's not a lot of firm plans in place for any of this, just a bunch of people smooth-talking investors with promises of leveraging fandom into assets. Still, I found myself fascinated by the article, if for no other reason than because the author really, really tries to present these ideas without any sense of cynicism.

The Crypto Revolution Wants to Reimagine Books [Elle Griffin]

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