A new avenue for writers, are literature NFTs worth the hype? Find out.
In January this year, a post by the co-Founder and CEO of a web 3.0 media company, nft now, Matt Medved, went viral on Twitter. The tweet that reads “Literature NFTs will change the world” caused a heated discussion on the social media platform. Many are concerned that non-fungible token (NFT) books would further privatize free access to information, whereas some are excited that they would create completely new ways to make literature.
But firstly, what is a literature NFT? You may have noticed that NFTs are primarily used for digital art. This is true, but NFTs are slowly gaining momentum across multiple creative industries, including music, games and literature. Let’s take a look at the possibilities and challenges of incorporating NFTs into the literature space.
A new form of writer-reader interaction
With NFTs, authors will be able to limit quantities and periods for a release and create hype around their books. They can also use NFTs to offer their readers unique features, like special forewords, illustrations and authors’ notes. Another way in which NFTs could add value to literary works is by giving authors the option to put out a limited number of digitally-signed copies. This could be an intriguing way for authors to engage with readers and fans and increase their work’s value.
NFTs can be a way for writers to experiment with publication formats—especially those whose interests lie in technology. With the decentralized nature of NFTs, writers can play with various formats when releasing their work and build direct relationships with their buyers and fans without having any publishers telling them what’s sellable or not.
In February 2021, author Blake Butler published his book Decade, which he wrote back in 2008, by turning it into a GIF (graphics interchange format) of flashing pages of his book and then minting it as an NFT. Commercial publishers previously rejected Butler’s work because of its “complicated structure and dense language”. But now, with an NFT as a publishing alternative, Butler had the option to publish and sell his work by himself. Purchasing the GIF gives you proof of ownership of Decade, with which you can receive a PDF version of the book. Overnight, someone bought the NFT for 5 Ethereum (ETH), which was US$7,569.50 at the time.
An NFT book is a receipt for a digital book, something in your possession. This makes a literature NFT different from an eBook that you can purchase from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. When you purchase an eBook on Amazon, you only have it for as long as Amazon is around and agrees to keep providing it.
In some ways, possessing a literature NFT is similar to owning a physical copy of a book. You own it once you buy it, and it won’t disappear at the whims of an outside party. In fact, with NFTs, you don’t just own any copy but a specific copy within a series of copies, just like how you can hold different editions of a physical book.
Concerns with NFTs
Some are concerned that since NFT books would be on the expensive end, they would invariably make some books inaccessible to the general public and limit access to information that should otherwise be freely available. The scarcity of NFT books would make them more expensive than regular eBooks and physical books. This contradicts the purpose of libraries and eBooks, which gives everyone equal access to books and information.
Moreover, there is also the evergreen concern about the environmental impacts of NFTs. The Ethereum blockchain, on which most NFTs are built, forces miners to solve complex equations in order to add their assets to the blockchain. This process continues to grow more complex and energy-draining as ETH becomes more popular. The calculation process is extremely energy-intensive and relies on electricity generated by fossil fuels, particularly coal. Bitcoin mining is responsible for 85.75 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Such a carbon footprint is comparable to countries such as Bangladesh and Chile.
Despite environmental concerns, NFTs benefit the publishing industry by adding new ways to promote books and earn additional revenues. If you are a budding writer who always dreams of publishing a book of yours but are sick of submitting manuscripts to commercial publishers, why not try to be a crypto writer and publish your book as a unique NFT?
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