As the Australian book publishing industry grapples with digital disruption and a rapidly changing marketplace, QUT researchers have developed a world-first digital rights management system that uses blockchain to create new commercial opportunities for small publishers.
The No Point in Stopping project is a response to the lack of research into how publishers, rather than just authors, may benefit from blockchain. The project developed new digital products using drafts, edits and unpublished illustrations of a novella to monetise intellectual property. Using open source blockchain technology, the project managed intellectual property agreements and royalty payments, and tracked purchases with a custom digital ledger.
The project was funded by an IFE Catapult grant, a scheme designed to seed innovative transdisciplinary research that responds to the needs of industry. The two-year collaboration involved researchers from QUT’s Creative Industries, Law, and Science and Engineering Faculties, and the Brisbane-based micro-publisher Tiny Owl Workshop.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Mark Ryan said there is a small, but growing volume of research and innovative technological experiments that focused on blockchain for book publishing.
“Most of this research is focused on enabling authors to self-publish and earn royalties, so they can cut out the publisher. Our project is the first using blockchain so that publishers can create new royalty streams and value for their companies.”
“Working with blockchain is still a very technical and complex process. This project required a number of skills to pull it together, including information technology, information systems and coding. We also required extensive legal expertise, and the involvement of QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty to ensure the creative aspects of book publishing was understood and a part of the process.”
The No Point in Stopping 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 rights management and royalties distribution system 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)
- 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.
QUT Creative Industries Faculty (Creative team)
- Associate Professor Mark David Ryan
- Dr Phoebe Macrossan
- Dr Cameron Cliff
QUT Law Faculty (Law team)
- Professor Nic Suzor
- Dr Kylie Pappalardo
QUT Science and Engineering Faculty (Information Systems team)
- Dr Michael Adams
- Dr Suriadi Suriadi
- Professor Arthur ter Hofstede
Tiny Owl Workshop (Publisher)
- Sue Wright
With special thanks to:
Kate Eltham and Craig Bolland (QUT Creative Industries), and Brydon Wang (QUT Law)
No point in stopping, a memoir novella by Samuel Maguire
(From left) Dr Michael Adams, Associate Professor Mark Ryan and Sue Wright from the project team