4 min read

Why eBooks Are the Best Use Case for NFTs

If there were ever the perfect use case to showcase the value that NFTs provide, then it would be eBooks. And yet, it’s rarely discussed alongside the popular use cases like digital art, fractionalizing digital assets, selling real estate, and issuing event tickets.

191 million eBooks were sold in the US in 2020. Global eBook revenue is expected to surpass $13B in 2022. It’s a massive market with little overhead. But we haven’t heard any major publishers (or Amazon) mention an NFT plan for eBooks.

When Amazon leaned into eBooks nearly two decades ago and offered indie authors a chance to earn 70% royalties on every sale, they quickly outpaced the major publishers to dominate this domain. If an NFT marketplace can get eBook NFTs right, then we’re looking at a market shift just as monumental as Amazon’s.

The Tech

Book.io is an NFT marketplace and exchange for digital books where anyone can collect, read, and sell scarce digital editions of eBooks or audiobooks. They’re built on the Cardano blockchain and utilize a social token called $BOOK that incentivizes reading and activity on their platform. There are a few other platforms specializing in NFT books, including Publica, Creatokia, and BookVolts.

NFT books are a no-brainer because they provide tangible and desirable upgrades to the current system for digital books. Not to mention, they get authors out of the (sometimes predatory) relationship they have with publishers… and there are MANY qualms that authors have with their publishers.

Benefits to Readers:

  • True OwnershipYou don’t own the eBooks/audiobooks you buy from Amazon or Apple. You own a license that grants you access to these titles. But those files can be wiped out and removed from your library if Amazon or Apple decides to disable your account or stop supporting a particular author’s work. With NFTs, that title can never be removed from your wallet because you can’t take something from someone’s wallet.
  • ResaleBecause readers now own their eBook files, they can finally resell their book once they’re done reading it or gift it to a friend.
  • CollectorshipNFTs can finally introduce scarcity and edition numbers to digital books, thus creating a collector’s market just like the physical book market.

Benefits to Authors:

  • Immediate PayoutsThe Kindle store pays out on a 60-day loop, and traditional publishers can take upwards of a year to disperse royalty payments. NFT sales immediately deposit the sale funds into an author’s wallet.
  • Secondary Sale RoyaltiesAuthors have never been able to capture revenue on secondary sales. It’s likely never even crossed their minds. Smart contracts encode this royalty directly in the NFT.
  • A Path to Pre-SalesInstead of relying on publisher advances, NFT books would open up a path to pre-selling a book to your fans. Once you finished the book, the NFT they pre-ordered could programmatically change to redirect to the book.
  • Control of EditionsAuthors can decide how many editions of their book they want to sell. This is a new paradigm for authors to explore where they may create limited book runs and play around with scarcity economics.
  • Collectible CoversAuthors can play around with releasing different covers for the same book, creating another level for limited editions and scarcity metrics.
  • Direct Access to the CustomerTraditional publishers have no clue exactly who buys their books, and Amazon never releases this info. But an author who releases an NFT book would have a list of wallet addresses who purchased their book, which is sales data that authors would die for.

The Use Cases

Joseph Nassise, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over forty novels, has made his mark on the NFT book platform Book.io. On October 20th, the author sold 2,746 NFTs of its book The Heretic, the first book in his Templar Chronicle series, in 45 seconds on Book.io. Each NFT book was priced at $18, resulting in a total sale of around $50,000. – Cryptoflies

My Take

As an avid reader with nearly 1,200 eBooks in my library, I’m eager for mass adoption of this new NFT standard in books. I’ve never been able to sell or send a single one of my eBooks once I finished it. So that alone is an advancement I welcome.

As a two-time published author (The NFT Handbook and The Metaverse Handbook), I want to try this out so badly because of the connection I’d gain to my readers. I’ve sold over 200,000 books but barely know 1% of the people who’ve bought (and I only know them because they reached out to me).

With an NFT book release, I’d know every person who purchased my book based on their wallet address. I could then airdrop them gifts like a sample chapter of an upcoming book or a personalized video thanking them. If I had a sequel or new book coming up, then I would have a list of previous readers who I can now market directly to through airdrops to their wallets. And lastly, as an NFT book, I think there’s a way to digitally sign someone’s eBook (which I don’t think has ever been done before).

If I were rolling out an NFT book tomorrow, I’d focus on a small first edition run targeted at my superfans. Even if I don’t create enough supply to meet the demand, I can always issue a second edition run with a new cover. Authors have never had the chance to think about book scarcity in the same sense an artist thinks about art scarcity. So I think the real winners of the NFT book game will be those who can create a collector’s market for their book, whether through collectible book covers or scarce editions.

A crazy idea would be to create an NFT book that utilizes a programmatic smart contract like OG:Crystals which changes the asset every time it is transferred to a new owner. Imagine a dynamic book that changes every time it is sent to a friend or sold on the market.

For the foreseeable future, NFT books will be limited by ease of use, just like the rest of the NFT market. Truthfully, it’s the only thing protecting Kindle from getting dethroned (aside from their endless catalog and discovery engine).

Because once readers realize that they can finally own their digital books and once authors discover how much control NFTs will grant them, I can’t imagine any author turning away from the idea of selling their digital books as NFTs.