EconomyEditor's PickPhilippine bookshop sells book chapters as NFTs

November 4, 2021

By Patricia Mirasol

BookShelf PH, an online bookshop and publisher, has started selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of book chapters, starting with its recent publication, The E-Hustle: What the Country’s Best Digital Leaders Can Teach You About Launching and Growing Your Online Business. The Philippine-based bookshop hopes the new model — dubbed a public domain as a service (PDaaS) — will be a sustainable way for Filipinos to access a book’s content even before its copyright expiration.

When a book’s copyright expires, they no longer have exclusive intellectual property rights protections — they have entered the public domain. Some Filipino works in the public domain are Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere. Since copyright expiration in the Philippines continues from the date of the author’s death, plus 50 years, more recent books are not copyright free.

NFTs, as defined by finance website Investopedia, are virtual assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes. Because of their unique identification, they can’t be used as a medium for commercial transactions, although they can be used to represent physical assets such as real estate or an artwork. Because they are based on blockchains (which are digital, decentralized, unalterable ledgers that can record transactions involving value, like money or property), deals are simplified and risks are reduced.

“The chapter-bought NFTs will be created into a new public domain version of the book. [It will] be posted on Bookshelf PH and other channels for all to access and download, anytime and anywhere. The release also allows anyone to reproduce the content,” said Ada A. Ortega, co-founder of Bookshelf PH, in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

Ownership of NFT assets varies. In BookShelf PH’s case, when individuals buy NFTs associated with particular chapters of The E-Hustle, the bookshop will release the chapters to the public domain and forfeit its copyright as publisher.

“The contents of The E-Hustle are produced by Bookshelf PH which means that we have the right to make it public domain,” explained Ms. Ortega. “The buyer of the NFTs, on the other hand, only has ownership of the NFT artwork with the additional utility of being named the presenting sponsor of the respective chapter once it is released into public domain.”

The NFTs will be auctioned on OpenSea, a global marketplace for NFTs. Individuals interested in purchasing the NFTs first need to create a crypto wallet that OpenSea accepts, such as MetaMask, and then purchase Ethereum (ETH), the cryptocurrency OpenSea accepts for NFT purchases. The cryptocurrency can be bought through either MetaMask or crypto exchanges such as Moneybees.

One NFT of The E-Hustle costs 0.114 ETH, or about $500. Each comes with digital art — a holographic adaptation of the original chapter cover, belonging exclusively to the buyer.

“The value for the NFT owner is that they get to be associated as a supporter of e-commerce and entrepreneurship in the Philippines,” Ms. Ortega told BusinessWorld. “The value for readers is that they get a free resource about e-commerce, [thus] reducing the barrier to entry when it comes to starting or growing an online business.”

Bookshelf PH also has a marketing campaign, called E-Commerce for Everyone, that aims to get the public domain version of The E-Hustle into the hands of one million Filipinos. The year-long campaign starts this November, with all marketing collaterals recognizing buyers of the book’s NFTs as e-commerce enablers.

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