Existing systems, new languages: prototyping blockchain models for the book publishing industry to deliver rights management, royalties and audience engagement

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The Australian book publishing industry, a key copyright industry, continues to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape as digital disruption is encouraging new relationships between publishers, authors, and audiences. Blockchain technologies present an opportunity to decentralise production processes in ways that could radically enhance access to culture while creating new avenues for commercial exploitation and new incentives for production and distribution. There is a small but growing volume of academic research and innovative technological experiments in relation to blockchain and book publishing, however the majority of this work focuses on blockchain’s benefits for authors and writers. The No Point in Stopping project is a response to a lack of research into how publishers, rather than just authors, may benefit from blockchain.

This project explores a publisher-centred model of blockchain publishing which creates value for micro-publishers in terms of monetising existing intellectual property. This project involved creating new digital products using drafts, edits, and unpublished illustrations of a novella, No Point in Stopping, and monetising that intellectual property. Using the open source blockchain technology Hyperledger, the project developed a custom digital ledger to manage intellectual property agreements, royalty payments, and the tracking of both physical in-store and online purchases. In so doing, the research explores the potential of blockchain technology for book publishing models that are mutually beneficial for both publishers and authors. The project is the outcome of a two-year collaboration between researchers from the Digital Media Research Centre, Law, and Science and Engineering Faculties, and the Brisbane-based micro-publisher Tiny Owl Workshop. The project was funded by QUT’s Institute of Future Environments and a 2018 Catapult grant.

The project resulted in three key outcomes:  

  • A special ‘Education Edition’ of the novella No Point in Stopping, written by Brisbane author Samuel Maguire, and published by Tiny Owl Workshop. This Education Edition comprised three bundles of paratexts designed for independent writers and creative writing students;
  • A blockchain prototype system for rights management and royalty distribution that enacts micro-payments via smart contracts to all creative professionals involved in the writing and publishing process (namely the author, editor, illustrator and publisher); and
  • A Print and Electronic (P&E) tracking system made possible by the design of a marketing bellyband that contains a QR code. This code gives purchasers of physical book copies a free download of one digital bundle from the ‘Education Edition,’ linking physical book purchases in bookstores to online downloads, and providing a ledger of where customer transactions originate from.


Project team


Project funding

  • QUT Catapult Grant