This year's FutureBook Live conference will see five exciting book-related startups slug it out in a live pitch-off for the BookTech Startup of the Year 2018 crown. Four of our finalists - Bookful, Commaful, The Pound Project and Bookabees - have already been profiled. This week we continue the series with Publica, which wants authors and publishers to design their own storefronts and business models, powered and protected by the blockchain.
Publica is a new publishing platform that using blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to innovate how books are funded, distributed, bought, and read. For readers, libraries and institutions Publica offers “books without borders” via an ereader-wallet app for digital book ownership, which is portable to any device. For authors and publishers, it offers personalised online storefronts, designed to their own business models and at their own prices, with their book sales cryptographically protected by a global peer-to-peer blockchain network.
Publica was crowdfunded by the cryptographic community. C.e.o. Josef Marc has experience in book writing and production, project management in television and film for the likes of Sony and DirecTV, and digital media standards including the SMPTE. C.o.o. Anton Sapriko founded Scandiweb, a full stack agency for enterprise solutions including The New York Times and Walmart. C.t.o. Yuri Pimenov is a longtime contributor to the blockchain community including peer-to-peer lending platform development, automated magazine publishing, and Internet radio.
What's the gap in the market?
"The Internet revolution radically affected publishing," Marc explains. "One of its effects was a growing centralization of online publishing in a few dominant platforms. Blockchains are popular wherever decentralization offers a better business model. The gap we saw was - How can authors and publishers reach a global audience without having to fit themselves into a dominant platform’s business model?
Success so far?
Earlier this year, Publica displayed its ereader-wallet apps for Android and iOS at the London Book Fair. That book catalogue included a pilot project collection of classic titles from Trajectory Inc., known for pioneering deep learning algorithms to analyze and recommend books. Publica then opened a web platform for self-publishers with advice from The Alliance Of Independent Authors, and announced a partnership with Morgan James Publishing to link their digital and print books. Publica was awarded 'Best Use Of Blockchain In Publishing Technology' by Digital Book World in September.
Marc reports that Publica's 2018 projects were pilots for proof-of-concept, while next year's programme is 'adoption.'
"The biggest challenges are in distinguishing between organizations who want change and those who prefer the status quo," he says. "In 2018 our challenge was offering books in our e-reader-wallet apps for cryptocurrency payments only. At scale, people want to buy with credit cards in local currencies. Publica solved that challenge and will present it very soon. In 2019 the biggest challenge will be 'adoption' because that means different things to different people. Dominant platforms from the Internet revolution have taught the world their business models. 'Adoption' for Publica means facilitating the authors’ and publishers’ business models unfettered, and that's an open book."
The company's ultimate vision is for book publishing to be “powered by Publica". "The blockchain evolution isn't about the blockchains, it's about what you do with them," Marc insists. "Publica isn't meant to impose a business model, it's meant to enable the booksellers to run their own - with the expected cryptographic protection for the books and the payments, via digital and paper and audio, both simple and enhanced. Let the web do what it does best; let the blockchains protect the commerce."
Advice for other publishing entrepreneurs?
"No matter what you may think of the blockchain evolution or cryptocurrencies, don't ignore them. Like the Internet revolution before it, next year will be different from this year. Roll with it."