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Porter Anderson – Publishing Perspective - May 6, 2021

The Germany-based digital book distributor Bookwire announces an autumn target for its NFT marketplace for the book publishing sector.

Ruhrmann: ‘Currently Under Development’

With its announcement today (May 6), the Frankfurt-based digital distributor Bookwire steps into the blockchain discussion, creating what it’s calling a new NFT marketplace “for the publishing and creator industry.”

“NFT” stands for “non-fungible token.” It’s a quantity of data stored on a digital ledger that underlies a blockchain. An NFT then works like an identifier, separate from copyright, verifying ownership of a digital property—especially significant for digital files like JPGs and MPGs which can be easily copied and shared online. While NFTs won’t prevent that kind of sharing, they do provide a framework for proving who owns what.

NFT marketplaces have proliferated in the visual art sector since March of this year, when digital artist Beeple sold a JPG file, as an NFT, at auction for US$69 million. According to the New York Times report on the sale, NFTs “are also being used to market and monetize an ever-widening range of cultural, commercial and personal items, in what some have likened to a digital gold rush.”

In a report on NFTs at the Wall Street Journal (March 19), Jason Zweig wrote, “By connecting the blockchain to art and other creative work, NFTs bring the objectivity of computer code to fields that are notorious for subjectivity.

“Artists, writers and musicians struggle to find audiences and make a living. Curators, dealers, collectors and art historians bicker nonstop about the quality and value—and the authenticity—of major works … Until now, buyers often had to take the answers to such questions on faith. An NFT, however, can integrate reams of information about an artwork into an authoritative, permanent digital record.”

Bookwire is announcing its intent to open its platform–sometime in the autumn–as an option for collectibles and digital originals “such as first editions, original manuscripts, and exclusive audio recordings.” At this point, the platform has not been completed or tested.

And it’s interesting that the company’s leads on the project quickly concede that buzz around the “non-fungible token” may not be lasting. They say they nevertheless see a practical application for blockchain activity in the publishing place as making sense. As today’s media messaging has it, “Publishers and content creators can use the platform to offer their target groups attractive and exclusive products that meet the needs and habits of new generations of digitally influenced readers,” those digital originals being “linked to true digital ownership” which cannot be duplicated.

In a prepared statement, Bookwire’s co-founding managing director John Ruhrmann, is quoted, saying, “For a long time, we at Bookwire have been thinking about using blockchain as a technology for the publishing industry.

“The potential uses of blockchain are huge. The hype around NFTs may die down, but the technology is here to stay.

“We want to enable blockchain solutions for our customers and the market as a whole. The NFT marketplace currently under development is a way for us to start bringing collectors, readers, users and listeners together with publishers, labels, authors and creators.”

The first of the so-called “drops”—digital sales events in which NFTs are offered for sale—should come with the opening of the platform in the fall.

Bookwire’s staff says it will support its publishing clients “in both production and sale of NFTs that guarantee ownership and anti-counterfeiting of digital goods.”