A Surprising Journey to Alternative Publishing …
… and some reflections about Web2 based coordination vs Web3 based DAOs
12 months after I put the book online for free on Github it has been translated by a group of volunteers into 9 different languages 6 of which are complete (Portugese, Brazilian, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Farsi) and 3 (Chinese, Japanese, French) of which are still in progress or have only been partially translated. The English and German version were previously published by myself.
Some of the translations (Spanish, Italian, Portugese and Brazilian) have also been commercially released as print and ebook versions in coordination with the translation teams. In addition to being available on Github these translations are now also available on Amazon, Apple and Google Play. Potential royalties will be split between the translators and me.
I would like to use this opportunity on the last day of this year to thank all the people involved in the translation process. It was a wonderful and accidental co-creation process that taught me a lot about the power of publishing under a creative commons license and the coordination power of the Web2 that I had underestimated in my own hype of the Web3. I had the honour to meet an amazing random set of Web3 aficionados from all over the world and different walks of life. But before we talk about that a few words about self publishing in general:
The power of self-publishing
I never wanted to publish a book myself. Back in 2018 I – rather reluctantly – decided to self-publish the first edition of the book in order to avoid the bureaucratic process of finding the right publisher and negotiating with them wether, when and under which conditions to publish my book. Given the avant-garde nature of the Web3 and my wholistic aka interdisciplinary approach of the topic, it seemed that I would have a hard time fitting the concept of the book I wanted to write into the traditional disciplinary format that publishing houses liked to release (is it a business book, a tech book or a political science book?). These questions did not even make sense to me…
So, with the support of my wonderful co-producer Caroline Helbing and the magically talented designers Justyna Zubrycka and Carmen Fuchs I started the journey.
By the time I had finished writing and publishing the English edition, O’Reilly Germany offered to publish the German translation of my book, but two thirds through the production process of the German book, O’Reilly Germany gave me back the publishing rights due to a series of personal events and world events that unfolded in 2020.
In hindsight i am very happy that I decided against going with a publisher for the English original, even though at that time this also meant so much work for me to understand how the publishing industry works and much more operational legwork. I am also happy that I accidentally regained control over the German rights.
What seemed like a stumbling block back then turned out to become a mayor asset for me because as a self publisher, I have full control over pace, quality, wording style, and also legal matters — such as fully releasing the book and all the translations under a creative commons license from the get go.
This journey has also made me think about several aspects of publishing: Open access vs. closed access as well as Web2 vs. Web3 coordination.
Open vs Closed Access
My experience shows once more that open access and a distributed process allows you to move forward much faster and take unexpected avenues without having to compromise on book sales.
Even though everyone can access the book and all the translations for free over Github under a creative commons licence, many people are still buying private copies of the book, even more than before. 2,5 years after first release of the book I am selling 20x more books than in 2019, even though many of the examples I use in the book are already outdated.
To be fair, the higher sales over the last few months might also be the result of and overall rising interest in Crypto and Web3 topics. They could also be an effect of the pandemic etc. But what is sure, sales have not decreased inspite of the fact that I provide the book as a legal open access version on GitHub.
Private Copies complement Public Copies
It might be intuitive to think that there is a preference to read a physical book rather than reading a free version online. But interestingly, half of my book sales come from selling Ebooks which means that people buy Ebooks even tough they could read the book for free on Github, or alternatively download the book on one of many ‘illegal’ websites that offer “pirated” copies of the book.
The Threat of Overbuerocratization with Web3 based DAOs
I was surprised by the agility of Web2 based coordination. The Web2 and it’s platforms have created a coordination ground for distributed organizations, albeit loosely formalized as we can see in the case of this co-translation and co-publishing process I underwent with the collective translations of the book this year.
We developed some formalisms around how we organized the translation process and set the legal grounds with the creative commons licence that regulated the legal rights process, while the translator contracts and royalty share split were regulated in a separate legal document.
In the future, we could probably automate many of the rights management process over a co-creation DAO and incentivize the process with a token. However, I am a bit worried about an over-bureaucratisation that might occur in the Web3 if we don’t get DAO governance right which is why I decided to dedicate my next book to the topic of DAO governance and purpose-driven tokens that steer these DAOs.