Blockchain technology offers exciting opportunities for authors and the publishing industry.
In this interview, Simon-Pierre Marion and I discuss copyright protection, smart contracts, estate management and faster, more transparent payments, as well as how digital scarcity could expand the revenue potential in the digital supply chain. Plus, I add some extra commentary on the potential of NFTs for authors since they are in the news a lot at the moment.
Simon-Pierre Marion is the CEO and founder of Scenarex, a Canadian company that builds blockchain publishing solutions. Their site, bookchain.ca, enables authors and publishers to publish on the Ethereum blockchain.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- What exactly is blockchain technology? (although you don't need to understand it technically to appreciate its potential!)
- What's the difference between blockchain and cryptocurrency?
- Copyright protection with blockchain
- Smart contracts — payment splitting at transaction, reduction in back office overhead, estate management
- Resale of digital products, and payment through the whole chain of transactions
- The opportunities of digital scarcity and NFTs — plus, I add some extra commentary around NFTs for authors [27:12 mins]
- When will blockchain technology go mainstream?
You can find Simon-Pierre Marion at bookchain.ca and on Twitter @bookchainapp
You can also listen or read episode 519 on Copyright Law and Blockchain for Authors in an Age of AI, an excerpt from my book, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Virtual Worlds: The Impact of Converging Technologies On Authors and the Publishing Industry.
Transcript of Interview with Simon-Pierre Marion
Joanna: Simon-Pierre Marion is the CEO and founder of Scenarex, a Canadian company that builds blockchain publishing solutions. Their site, bookchain.ca, enables authors and publishers to publish on the Ethereum blockchain. Welcome, Simon-Pierre.
Simon-Pierre: Thank you, Joanna. And thank you for your invitation. I'm super happy to participate.
Joanna: It's very exciting to talk about this.
Tell us a bit more about you and why you decided to focus on this intersection of publishing and technology.
Simon-Pierre: It started in 2013, a long time ago already. I started my MBA at that time, specializing in technology. So during the course of my MBA, I've learned different technologies, and, of course, I've learned blockchain at that point.
I was very interested in the digital publishing world because I'm a big reader, a big fan of books, of course, but I'm a very tech-savvy guy. I like digital books a lot more than the regular book, maybe I'm the opposite of a lot of people of my generation. But that's what I am.
So being interested in that, I started to study that domain, because I was wondering why digital books were not more advanced than that. I was comparing that market, to the music industry, to the movie industry. And I was seeing that they were far more advanced in the digital world compared to books. I realized that blockchain could bring a lot to the digital world of the book publishing industry. And from that, I decided to start Scenarex in 2015.
I studied the market a lot, the first two years in 2015 and 2016. And then after that, I realized that there was a need for publishers and authors to benefit from the blockchain. And I decided to start the Bookchain project.
Joanna: It's so fascinating that you've been focusing on the blockchain-specific stuff since 2015. Because I feel like a lot of people may have only just started to hear about it in a more serious way. So let's start at the basic level.
People hear Bitcoin and blockchain and they might think it's the same thing. So can you briefly explain blockchain and also for people listening, you don't need to understand it, technically, in order to use it, I think that's really important.
What is blockchain technology?
Simon-Pierre: The picture I always refer to is as a general ledger. If you take, for example, an accountant, he records in a general ledger in a book, all the transactions that one of his customers does.
Blockchain technology acts a little bit like that. So it's like a big book where you store all of the information from transactions that are happening. And when I say a big book here, you have to realize that we're talking about a digital world. So it's, in fact, a database, which is a system where you store data.
In a nutshell, that's what a blockchain is. It's a database where you store information. The interesting aspect, though, of blockchain is that you cannot modify it, it cannot be tampered with. So as when you record a transaction in a blockchain, it's there forever. It cannot be hacked or changed or delete. It's there.
Joanna: In terms of cryptocurrency, it's just a payment system built on a blockchain database, for example.
Simon-Pierre: Yes. Often people think that cryptocurrency is blockchain or blockchain is cryptocurrency, but that is not true, the cryptocurrency is a system that uses blockchain technology in order to make it work. But blockchain was invented before cryptocurrency.
The guy who invented cryptocurrency and Bitcoin, he simply realized that blockchain was the perfect technology to bring his idea to life because it brought the security around it. If you purchase a cryptocurrency, you want it to be safe, and you don't want people to be able to steal your cryptocurrency. So blockchain was the perfect approach for them.
That's also the reason why now all the major banks in the world are looking at blockchain. And most of them are already starting projects in blockchain because they are also acknowledging that blockchain is a very secure approach for doing financial transactions, digital.
Joanna: And I say to people, it's a bit like the internet, you don't have to know how the internet works to use the internet. And that's how I feel blockchain is. We're getting to the point where a lot of things are going to work on blockchain, like on the internet. And the difference also, I say, ‘Well, okay, so you use the internet for all kinds of things. But PayPal is for a certain payments part of the internet.'
I think using similarities helps people understand it. And, of course, on digital currencies, I think China has now actually launched their digital currency [BBC]. And there are rumors of an Amazon digital one [Tech Radar], and obviously, Facebook. [Diem – Wikipedia]
Simon-Pierre: Facebook. Yes.
Joanna: These are all things that are going to become much more normal to talk about, as time goes on.
Let's talk about publishing specifically. You mentioned that you saw that music and film are way ahead of publishing. I totally agree with you.
Why are you so excited about blockchain technology transforming the publishing industry?
Simon-Pierre: For the publishing industry, blockchain is super well suited. They are a perfect match.
The reason why they are a perfect match is that in a blockchain you can have transactions. But those transactions can also be used to store a digital asset and to ensure that the digital asset is assigned to the proper owner.
If you're a publisher or an author, and you want to publish your book. You want to make sure that this book, everyone knows that it's your book, you are the author or you are the publisher of that book, and you have the rights or the copyrights to that book.
So in that sense, blockchain is perfect, because you can use blockchain to record that you are the rightful owner of that book, and it will be there and it will be safe there, and no one can ever contradict you because you are the rightful owner of that book.
Then, of course, as a reader, when I purchase my book, I want to make sure that this book now belongs to me that copy of that book, let's say belongs to me, of course, the copyright remains to the author and the publisher. But you as a customer, you have purchased a copy of the book, and now on the blockchain, that transaction is recorded.
So now you are the owner of a copy of a book and you have the right to read that book. And of course, the rightful owner of the book remains the rightful owner of the book, which is the author and the publisher, but the reader can now say, ‘Yes, I am the owner of a copy and I can prove it using blockchain technology.'
Joanna: So it really, I won't say solves the problems of copyright and digital piracy entirely, but it certainly goes in the right direction. When I saw you at Frankfurt in 2019, you were presenting alongside a new copyright group that is looking at a sort of ISBN number for blockchain [ISCC]. I know a lot of that is out of Canada as well. Maybe you could talk a bit about that, too.
Simon-Pierre: There are other projects ongoing, especially for that to make sure that we can assign a number to a digital asset using the blockchain technology. And using that number, with an algorithm that would identify the source of the digital asset, it would be like a stamp of proof that this is the original, let's say, digital copy of the book.
If anyone tries to add a new, like of that book, then the blockchain technology would automatically know that it is someone trying to add the same book or a copy of that book, because of its digital footprint or fingerprint, if you might say so.
So that's another very good example of how blockchain technology could be used to replace the ISBN number or maybe not replaced it because there's also a need for it in the physical world. But it could be a complement to the ISBN for the digital version of the books.
Joanna: And we should say like this is, as you say, digital, so this could work for audiobooks, as well.
Simon-Pierre: Oh, yes.
Joanna: For me, it would really help because, at the moment, a lot of us get emails from Amazon saying, ‘Somebody else is claiming this book, give us proof that you own this book, of your copyright.' And it's very annoying, because you've registered, but people do this.
If there was that kind of electronic registration that could be more easily checked, then these big publishing distributors could check that, and we wouldn't have to go through this. I think it would really help with a lot of the piracy issues, which I think is quite exciting.
It must be exciting to the publishing industry to think this could happen, or do they just not care?
Simon-Pierre: Actually, you know what? COVID has its bad side, but, unfortunately, let's say it like that, unfortunately, it also has some good side. I think some of the good side is that we've seen a big increase in interest in the digital publishing world.
I think a lot of people, a lot of publishers that were less inclined to go on the digital aspect of things are more and more now with the COVID going through there. And we've seen an increase in their interest in knowing about the different technologies that are on the market. I think it's helping our cause of promoting blockchain technology.
Joanna: That is good to know. I remember coming to your session at Frankfurt Book Fair and it was in this tiny corner of the fair, and I was listening to you, there were only maybe six of us in the audience that weren't part of your group.
I was sitting there listening to it going, ‘This is really significant. Why is there no one else here? Why is this not on the main stage?' So I'm really happy to hear that things are changing.
Let's get into some more interesting details. Let's talk about smart contracts. Let's say we've got our digital asset, we've uploaded our book to the blockchain. And we'll come back to bookchain.ca in a bit.
What is a smart contract? And what are the possibilities that authors could include in it?
Simon-Pierre: That's also one of the very cool things about blockchain, smart contracts. So let's start from the basics.
What's a contract? A contract is when you sign a deal with someone and there are rules in the contract. So in the publishing industry, let's say you have a contract with a marketplace, and in your contract, you say that your book will be sold at that price. And from that price, the marketplace will retain 30% and then give you the rest, and so on and so on, there could be multiple different rules.
When you talk about smart contracts, what you do is that you take the rules from that contract, and you automate those rules using programs or using development in the blockchain.
Basically, it's code that transforms those rules to be automated. What that means is that after that, if you use a smart contract, and you have a transaction that happens on the blockchain, let's say you sell a book. Then the smart contract will automatically apply those rules for you. So you don't have to worry about it, it's there, and it will be done.
For example, if you said, ‘My book is sold at this price,' then the smart contract will make sure that it is sold at the right price. If you said that the royalties, the marketplace gets 30%, and you get the rest, then the smart contract will make sure that the money is split automatically for you.
And of course, if there are other rules, it will apply all of the rules for you. So that's very, very cool because you don't have to worry about anything, everything is done automatically for you.
Joanna: And just to be clear, and what I think is exciting about this, because I think authors will be going, ‘Well that happens right now.' But you're talking about at the time of the transaction, rather than 60 days later, which we get right now, for example, from what I can tell.
For example, I might have 50% of it goes to me, and 10% goes straight to charity, and 20% goes to my brother. Essentially, you could program all of these things in and that will happen as long as that asset is transacted on the blockchain.
I'm also excited about this about estate management.
This could go on even after the death of the author. Am I right about that?
Simon-Pierre: Yes, exactly. You're absolutely right, the royalty distribution can be split as you wish, with a smart contract. It can do whatever you want and it will do it automatically as soon as there is a transaction. So that's the beauty of it.
Joanna: And the other thing is this idea of ebook resale, and this is something I was talking about with a guy in the Netherlands, Tom's Kabinet. The court came down in Europe to say that you can't resell an ebook. But that seems to be because of the licensing agreements that most of the ebook retailers have.
What makes it possible to resell ebooks? And if we have a smart contract in place, can we get a cut of a resale?
Simon-Pierre: Absolutely. To be able to resell an ebook, you have to make it clear for the royalty owners of the book. So, of course, if you try to resell an ebook and the royalty owners, or the copyright owners of the book do not want the ebook to be resold, of course, you're going to lose in any court.
But for example, in our solution, what we are saying is that we ask the rightful owner of the book if they want their ebook to be resalable or not. And they take the decision if they accept or not, this state of reselling. If they do not accept, then people won't be able to resell it, but if they do accept then the ebook can be resold.
And of course, this is all again stored in the smart contract. So if you accept that a reader resells his books, then you can also set in the smart contract, what are the percentage for the distribution of the resell transaction? So if you say, ‘I will let my readers resell their book, but when they will resell it I want 50% out of it, and I leave them the other 50%.' That's an example.
But the other thing you can put in the smart contract is the notion of time. So you could say, ‘I would like to have that resell option enabled in the blockchain smart contract. But maybe not right now because often my sales are very high the first year and then after that, they go down a little bit.'
So you can say, ‘I will enable the resale after a year.' So you can purchase the book, but you cannot resell it, but a year after the resell option is activated, and then the reader can resell the book. And this could create another sub-market and other revenues for you.
Joanna: And that's exactly the point, more revenue for us!
This is why when I've been hearing you talk about this, I've been reading a lot of books on this, I'm kind of blown away by the abundance of possibilities with things like the smart contract.
As you mentioned, the banks are going to be using these things because it does away with the back-office functions of payment splitting and sending out money. There will be no excuse to have this sort of 30 days, 60 days, 6 months, 1 year if it can all be done in this way.
I think people hear ebook resale, and they think that will take money out of their pocket. But actually, it finally means that creators and everyone else in the publishing chain can make revenue from the secondhand book market, which at the moment doesn't benefit anyone except the bookseller.
I love secondhand bookstores, but it would be great to digitalize that as well. So you feel that abundance too, I guess?
Simon-Pierre: Yes, absolutely.
Joanna: The other thing I'm fascinated by is the idea of digital scarcity. And this is a huge idea, people listening if you haven't heard of this. So essentially, you can do a limited edition. And in fact, as we speak this week, Christie's has just launched their first Digital Art Auction, which indicates to me that digital scarcity is going mainstream. This to me is very exciting because we could do first digital editions or limited editions.
What are you excited about with digital scarcity? Any thoughts on that?
Simon-Pierre: Yes. And this is such a good idea because that's exactly what we would like to create in the digital publishing world is to have that notion of a special edition of an ebook. Again, the way I often approach it to the major publishers, I'm telling them that they can create, again, new revenues. That's often the keyword here. New revenues.
How can you do that is that, for example, you add a book that was a bestseller, but it's been a few years now, and the book is not being sold anymore or very low sales. From that bestseller, what you can do is you can turn it into a collectible version of the book.
You can do a special cover, you can have a special introduction by the authors, maybe the author will sign the digital book. You can scan this signature and put it in the digital book. Maybe there will be an alternate ending, maybe there will be some artwork in it.
You create that digital book, that special edition of it, using blockchain technology. Again, you can say to the blockchain and the smart contract, ‘This book, I want to have only that many copies of it in circulation.' So you can control the number of books, digital books that are available to customers using the smart contract and the blockchain.
And of course, that's where also the resale capability comes into play. Because you can also specify that this special edition can be resold by the person who purchased it. And if the demand for that special edition is very high and you kept the number low enough, you can also create a market where the digital edition of your book can probably be sold a lot more by the reader once all of the copies are gone, and that others want to purchase it. They could bid on it and they could resell it at a much higher price. So they can make money out of it and you can also make money out of it.
Joanna: Again, this is so exciting because at the moment I feel like we don't value ebooks and digital audio enough because they're unlimited. And they're essentially copies. We feel like oh, well, a couple of dollars here and there and everywhere but this idea of scarcity and a collector's edition.
As you say, there are business models around the collectors who will wait to buy up these first editions, who will then resell them. That is their business model; reselling collector's editions in print, and there's no reason why that can't work in digital.
If people won't believe it, I know they're listening going, ‘No, that'll never happen.' But I went on to superrare.co and it is happening with images. And I'm like, ‘Why is someone paying that much, €300 for a little pixel image?' But it is happening, isn't it? There's a mindset shift.
Simon-Pierre: Yes, exactly. That collectible market always existed, and it will continue to exist. So the digital market needs to adapt to this market, and blockchain is the perfect solution for it.
Added segment: Joanna Penn on NFTs for authors [27:12 mins]
I am jumping back in mid-interview to add some extra commentary on NFTs for authors since they are all over the news right now, and fit nicely into this interview, which we, recorded a month or so ago. And obviously, it wasn't so much in the news then.
So NFT stands for non-fungible token, which is just a terrible acronym, really! It's basically a verified digital asset.
So it has like a certificate of verification. And as we've been discussing in this interview, you could have a first edition or a limited edition of an ebook or an audiobook.
So I might decide, okay, I'm going to create five copies of this first edition ebook. I'm going to sign them digitally and verify that there are only five copies like this. And I create a smart contract that allows resale and maybe I want 10% or 5% or 20% of every resale. I can determine that in the contract, then the person who buys it can sell it on, do whatever they like.
I might do the same with an audiobook. For example, I could add extra audio specific to each of those five audio things, or I could add audio to the ebook special messages. You could still buy the regular ebook or audiobook for the usual price. You could also buy the print edition in paperback, hardback, large print, and maybe I also do a limited edition hardback with gold embossing and special art.
I want you to consider the digital possibilities to be similar to the physical possibilities in that people want different things. Some people want collectors digital items. There is no more race to the digital bottom with this idea. You can have your one thing that is available everywhere, but some people will pay a lot more.
In the print market, for example, you know, people will pay hundreds of thousands for a first edition of a physical book by an author and they can read the text free on the internet. You might say, Oh, well, it's a physical book. Yes, but the value of that physical book actually is tiny if you strip it down to pages and ink. The value is in the belief of what that means to that person.
So I was thinking about some of the things that we could do as authors. For example, I was thinking of cutting up some of my actual journals and creating a piece of art using handwritten words, and it would exist once. And I would include those in the digital first editions of whichever book I decided to launch with an NFT.
So a real digital limited edition with extra word art in. I was also thinking about including pages of the hand-edited draft, which I keep. So after I write my first draft, I print it out and then I scribble all over it. So maybe you would get part of the early draft covered with my handwritten scrawls.
I have visited handwritten scrawled pages in the British library, and again, yes, they're physical, but again, you have to change your mindset around what people value. So Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles is in there, and the Beatles lyrics for Help, or one of their big songs anyway. And what we're talking about is, yes, it's a digital edition, but people want to own these things.
At the moment you don't own the ebooks on your Kindle or Apple Books or whatever. You don't own the TV shows that you stream and the music on Spotify, you're paying for a license. They can cancel your contract and you lose access to it all immediately.
With NFTs, you own that copy. And that creates a far more interesting secondhand and collectors market. You can also use these tokens for things in real life. So the band Kings of Leon as reporting in Rolling Stone are using different kinds of tokens. Some include a special album package, some are front row seats at a live event and others for exclusive audiovisual arts. So you can package all kinds of things. I mean, maybe think about this more as like a Kickstarter where all the rewards are digital.
Now you might think this is crazy. You might be like, what are people doing? There are a lot of big numbers being talked about in the media, like multi-millions of dollars for music tracks or a digital clip of someone dunking a basketball and all these kinds of different things.
Artworks that you can just download for free selling for multi-millions. Even a tweet, for example, by Jack Dorsey. [The Verge] But I actually know people, real people who use sites like Second Life who will pay serious amounts of money for a designer dress for their avatar to wear online. And if you watch Ready Player One or read the book, you can see how the digital virtual reality world may go.
People pay real money for digital assets and the amazing thing for us, even if you don't personally care about paying money for digital assets yourself, is that lots of people want to, so we should be pleasing them and you can create a smart contract for getting a cut of the resale. Have a look at Nifty Gateway and SuperRare as examples of art.
This is true digital abundance, and the possibilities are incredible, especially for independent creators who want to expand their forms of income.
There are not many authors who could command those big amounts right now. So I'm not going to be able to put up one of my books with extra handwritten words in and get $6 million for it. As much as I would love to think you guys would like that, it's not going to happen!
But I want you to think about what we do with these different formats at the moment. So when I launch a book, in fact, next week as this goes out, I'll be putting out How To Make A Living With Your Writing, Third Edition. That will go out in ebook, audiobook, paperback, large print, and hardback. Five editions plus a workbook.
I could also do a limited edition back with golden embossing. I always use that example because that's quite expensive or foil or whatever you want to add to the cover. I could also include these digital first editions or something like that.
The technology is mostly invite only at the moment. So we can't do it right now, but it's definitely something to look at for the future.
Consider the products I've just mentioned, the price ranges between $6.99 and $25 for the hardback. Even if I had a hundred-dollar digital first edition, that's four times what I could get for a hardback.
I could also receive money over time from the resale, which I would not get from a hardback. So in fact, even if I sold a digital first edition for $25, and then someone on sold that, and on sold that, for the life of copyright, I could get money or my estate could get money for all that time.
You just think, Wow, that is amazing! I really hope you're getting this. I hope that the penny is dropping for you because when it dropped for me, I'm was like, Oh my goodness. There are so many things we could do! It means we could collaborate much more and do real limited edition things between us.
My brain is exploding with the possibilities ahead of us, creatives!
If you own and control your intellectual property rights, it's all going to be possible. You know, we always say this is the best time in history to be a writer. Well, it's going to get even better. That's how I feel about this. I'm so excited.
This is why you should never license “all formats existing now and to be invented,” as you basically have cut out this entire future. Please don't sign contracts like that! License specific formats, specific languages, specific territories, and specific timeframes. Contracts are for negotiating. [More in How To Make A Living With Your Writing, Third Edition.]
Scott Belsky, the author of Making Ideas Happen, has a great article on Medium about this. He calls this “a transformative economic model for artists,” and says it's “empowering the careers of creators themselves more than everyone in the middle. This is another way to go direct to fans in new ways.”
He ends the article with “Welcome to the new era of digital art [or we could say digital books] one that finally transcends the traditional lowest common denominator aspects of the web and both elevates and rewards some of the greatest artists the world has ever seen [and hopefully the rest of us!] As always art and creative experimentation more broadly is just the bridge between the old way and a better way. So much more to come in this space.”
I feel like we've seen ebooks version one when people scanned PDFs. We're in version two, which is, epubs and mobis and things like that.
But what we're talking about here is perhaps the new thing. So as Scott said, “the bridge between the old way and a better way,” and I see we'll be moving into this new space where we can do digital assets that are not a race to the bottom. And boy, do we need it. We really need it.
Hugh Howey also posted about this and goes into a lot more detail around piracy and also the environmental impacts. He says, “in the future, there will be a secondhand market for digital art. That includes the artist in every transaction.” He is just as excited about this as I am.
Of course, there are valid criticisms of NFTs and cryptocurrency, and blockchain around the amount of power it takes to produce these transactions. But this problem will be solved. I absolutely believe it will be solved. We are very early in this transformative time.
And if you carry on listening to the interview with Simon Pierre, he talks about when this might move into the mainstream. We are still a few years off as yet. And of course, this will be normal just as uploading your ebook is normal now, whereas it wasn't a decade ago. It's definitely coming.
And once the penny drops for you on the possibilities, I hope you will be just as excited as we are. So let's get back into the interview.
Joanna: Tell us a bit more about what bookchain.ca does and what authors can do with their books there.
Simon-Pierre: Bookchain as it says it's a blockchain-based platform that we have developed to help authors publish their book on the blockchain. Because it's not easy right now to do that without the proper interface.
If you can picture it, we basically build a layer on top of a blockchain technology, which is the Ethereum blockchain, in order to simplify the work of authors and publishers, in order to put their work, or their books on the Ethereum blockchain.
It's a very simple interface, the authors or publishers they'd simply create an account, they upload. They fill, of course, some profile information, they upload their book, they create their smart contract. And then after that, they can publish it. And then the book becomes available for readers to be purchased.
When we built Bookchain, what we had in mind is to help, of course, authors and publishers to publish their books on the blockchain. But it was also with the idea that we want to give as much as we can back to them. So we are not collecting very high fees, of course, we have some fees, like any other platform, you have operating fees. But we try to keep it as much as possible, as low as possible, in order to give as much back as possible to the authors and the publishers.
Joanna: I've uploaded a book there. I can say it is pretty similar to the other distributors that we all use. You need the same fields, obviously, you're always going to need a title and description. And here's the book file and that kind of thing.
But obviously, one difference, as we've talked about, is that the smart contract area where you can specify certain things and I know you're working on adding things like the resale and stuff like that.
I did have one question around payment currency. You've chosen to pay authors with fiat currency, as in real-world currency. And I wondered, why not use cryptocurrency, for example, ether for Ethereum blockchain, since that's what you've built on so that authors can actually earn crypto, which many authors might like to do in this new world as such?
Why not use cryptocurrency?
Simon-Pierre: Really, it was a development decision at the beginning, simply because we were seeing that the market was not there right now. It's like the percentage of people owning cryptocurrency or wanted to use cryptocurrency was not high enough for us to do this development.
We could not justify the cost of the development to integrate that right now versus the need of it. But the good thing out of Bookchain, is that it's already on the Ethereum blockchain. And if suddenly the demand would switch and people more and more wanted to use cryptocurrency, it would be a lot more easier for us to activate that than other types of platforms that are not integrated into a blockchain solution right now.
Joanna: I'm in the UK, and my main currency is GBP, Great British pounds, but I do a lot of business in U.S. dollars. I like getting paid in U.S. dollars into my PayPal so that I can pay other people in U.S. dollars without having to go through various exchange rates.
I like the idea of earning cryptocurrency so that I can then use it to buy other things with that same currency. I consider myself as sort of multi-currency business, even though it's just me. But I see your point that there are many options for the future.
I also wanted to talk about the bigger issue of getting this adopted within the publishing ecosystem. Because, like you mentioned, it's not easy right now for people to get stuff on Ethereum blockchain or any other blockchain. What you've done is built an app or a layer, a company on top of the architecture.
What I see is, as an author, I make most of my money through very big sites like Amazon, and Apple, and Kobo. And I want them to use that smart contract too. I want to publish a smart contract and publish my book on blockchain, and then have that go through to all these platforms. Then that contract would carry all the way through the ecosystem.
Is that something that you see as a possibility, or will Amazon build their own blockchain solution and we'll have to upload to lots of different ones?
How do you see this going in the next five years?
Simon-Pierre: That's also our strategy. When we built Bookchain, yes, we wanted to be able to benefit authors and publishers that want to go through us directly. But we always had in mind that the end state of Bookchain was going to be an open platform that other marketplace or other distributors could also use, and use it for protecting their digital books.
We are not looking for replacing Amazon, we are not looking to replace anyone, we are looking to convince them to integrate them into our technology. And so they can benefit out of it even if it's with white-labels also, I mean, we're not looking at conquering the world with the brand.
We are looking at making sure that we will be there for anyone in the market that wants to use that technology, simplified by us. And not have to spend a lot of the research and development budget that we've spent to build it.
I think that's the future for Bookchain. And that's what we are aiming to, is to make sure that people will use it. So you might in five years from now, maybe everyone will use it and you won't maybe even know it, but it will be used.
Joanna: That's brilliant then, because, of course, at the moment people can buy eBooks on bookchain.ca, they can actually buy them there. But my thought was, ‘I'm not going to direct people there because people shop on the places they shop'. But I'm so glad that you said that and you shared that because I felt the same way.
I felt like you're more like a distributor, a bit like Draft2Digital or PublishDrive, you know Kinga of PublishDrive. I saw you together on a video online at Digital Book World, I think. And yes, so being a distributor, as you say, where an author might load their books up and then you distribute them through that. That would be exactly what I would see as the future, which is really exciting.
What are the challenges in convincing people, what are the mindset issues you're coming up against within authors in publishing?
Simon-Pierre: There's a lot of fear because the technology is not well known still. So there's a lot of fear. I often compare that fear to what it was at the late or mid-90s to late '90s with internet. Yes, so this tells you a bit about my age, I'm not too young.
I was in the middle of that phase in the '90s with internet, and I was already in technology at that time. And I remember it was the exact same pattern that I was seeing with internet, because in the mid-90s, I was telling companies, ‘Oh, wow, you have to go and start selling your stuff on the internet. This is the future.'
And then big corporations were telling me, ‘No, I think it's not safe. People don't want to put their credit card on the internet,' and so on. But then there was a complete shift after that. And as soon as people really started to adopt internet, it really boomed and suddenly you cannot even imagine our world without internet.
We are seeing the exact same pattern with blockchain technology, as technological people, we know the potential of the blockchain technology, we know it's super secure. We know what it can bring to the publishing industry. But again, the big corporation or the big players are still a bit scared about it.
But I think it's just a question of time before it goes completely the other way and we will see a big boom with the blockchain technology, as we've seen with the internet technology.
Joanna: Spotify, for music, obviously, and Amazon are looking at these types of solutions. I don't think the traditional publishers are going to do it first. I think it's going to be demanded of them by these big platforms. And they'll say, ‘You can't sell on this platform unless we can be sure of your copyright. So you have to go through this, this way.'
Would that be the way it might go?
Simon-Pierre: Yes, absolutely. That's a very plausible thing that can happen in the future. It can be driven definitively by the big marketplace. Facebook is one of them as we were saying earlier. Facebook marketplace is gaining in popularity. They are integrating cryptocurrency, so they are already using also blockchain technology.
I'm pretty sure that those retailers will do a big push for blockchain technology to the publishers, yes.
Joanna: And as you say, it may be that we're talking about an architecture that people won't even discuss. They'll be like, ‘Yes, I've uploaded my book to Amazon, and that we won't even know that it's using blockchain.' So that's really interesting to me.
This really is an architecture, but we will use the apps or the programs on top of the architecture. So a lot of it will be seamless anyway.
Do you think authors even need to know about this stuff?
Simon-Pierre: It's a bit like you were saying at the beginning with internet. You don't necessarily need to know exactly how it works underneath it. Because there will be companies like us that will provide the infrastructure or the interfaces for you to be able to use the technology without even knowing that you are using it.
Joanna: You mentioned there that it's a bit like the fear in the mid-90s, that was like 25 years ago. Do you think it will take that long to adopt all of this, or what's your pick? You've been working on this since 2013, your MBA in 2015 with the company.
Have you got a date when you'd like to see this going mainstream?
Simon-Pierre: Yeah. So really, the internet really picked up after 10 years. When it started to be more commercialized, because it was existing before, but it was not for the general public, a bit like blockchain, but it really started at the beginning of the '90s. And it really boomed in the beginning of the 2000s. I don't know if you remember there was that technological bubble.
Simon-Pierre: So to me, I was really aiming at 10 years. I started in 2015 exactly for that reason, because my estimation is that it will start booming around 2025.
I don't have a crystal ball. I'm just taking the pattern that I've seen in the past and it's taking, generally, for a big change technology like that, it takes around 10 years. My estimation is that, yes, blockchain technology will take 10 years as well before booming like internet. 2025 is really the key year for blockchain.
Joanna: Excellent. I'm excited and I hope to see you again at Frankfurt, but on one of the big stages with a whole load of people in the audience instead of nobody.
Where can people find you and Bookchain online?
Simon-Pierre: They can go at www.bookchain.ca. Or they can visit our company site as well at scenarex.ca or scenarex.com. So is scenarex.ca or scenarex.com.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time. That was great.
Simon-Pierre: Thank you.