Esquire just put out an interesting article about the supposed “crypto-revolution” in the book industry. It’s a boring book to read, but it’s oddly interesting because the author really believes these things:
What if you could own a stake in Harry Potter?
What if the book series functioned like a publicly traded company where individuals could “buy stock” in it, and as the franchise grows, those “stocks” become more valuable? If this were the case, someone who purchased just three percent of Harry Potter back when there was only one book would be a billionaire now.
Just imagine how that would affect the reading experience. Suddenly a trip to Barnes & Noble becomes an investment opportunity. Early readers could spot “the next big thing” and make a $100 contribution that becomes $10,000 or even $100,000 if the book’s popularity grows. If readers could own a percentage of the franchise, they might then be incentivized to help that book succeed. They could start a TikTok account to promote the book via BookTok, or use their talents as filmmakers to adapt it to the screen. All of this stands to increase the value of their original investment.”
At times, the author compares this situation to the rewards for people who back a project on Kickstarter. Having a share in the book is like making an early investment. Fine. I hate it, but I’m fine with it. Even though there are many things I don’t like about the publishing industry, that’s fine.
There’s an interesting implication for paid fandom gamification here: using NFT ownership to “lend out” IP for fan fiction and getting fans to interact with a franchise by offering money for doing so. But this still looks like a house of cards, and the reward seems to depend on everyone else seeing houses of cards as a real and desirable currency. Perhaps that’s the answer. Maybe the best-case scenario is that this just makes the same problems with IP ownership as before, but with different people and tools. Neat.
Unsurprisingly, there aren’t many clear plans for any of this. Instead, there are just a bunch of people trying to talk investors into giving them money by promising to make money off of fandom. Still, I was really interested in the piece, if only because the author tries hard to say these things without being cynical.