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Monday, April 2, 2018

Blockchain a Potential New Publishing Model

Blockchain is best known for underpinning the bitcoin cryptocurrency, but the technology is still in its infancy and may grow to be adapted to a vast array of other applications.

Information recorded on “blocks” is linked on a shared, public, and continually reconciled database that isn’t stored in a central location that would be vulnerable to hacking. The data in any block can’t be modified without altering every subsequent block, which would require a consensus of the majority of users on the network.

“The blockchain lets people who have no particular confidence in each other collaborate without having to go through a neutral central authority,” observed The Economist. “Simply put, it is a machine for creating trust.”

In a post updating a 2016 prediction on his Personanondata blog, business strategy consultant Michael Cairns noted that one area where blockchain could be applied is publishing, where it might be employed to identify copyright information and form a new method for buying, selling, and licensing intellectual content.

“Once a transaction occurs,” he wrote, “the user is supplied with a unique key for accessing the content. If the user subsequently wants to sell or lend the item, they pass their unique key to the next person for their use. This process eliminates the ‘residual’ copy issue which arises when someone tries to sell a secondhand e-file.”

He went on to list a host of companies and organizations that are already developing solutions for applying blockchain to publishing, peer review, licensing, royalty accounting, and micro-transaction payments. One of these is Publica, a platform that uses blockchain and cryptocurrency tech to facilitate direct transactions between authors and readers and enable any author, publisher, store, institution, or business to use digital keys to buy, sell, trade, or lend digital books or print on demand locally.

Such a solution could certainly be used for academic course materials, including obvious intersections with the open educational resources movement.

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