For someone who relishes the tactile pleasure of turning the page of one of my favorite novels, the concept of registering a book on a transparent, immutable digital ledger would seem a waste of time— but I get it. The question of provenance has plagued humanity since the beginning of time (or so I would posit). Look at the millions who flock daily to post the ‘provenance’ of their lives on Instagram — why wouldn’t you want to let the world know you own (and with good provenance) one of only a handful of the true first edition, first printing copies of your favorite author’s work-especially before they were famous.
[*Disclaimer — provenance, rare books, digital assets and all things mentioned in this post are related solely to my personal interests and as of the time that I published this post, I have no vested stake in any of the technologies mentioned aside from the digital asset I paid to create*]
Point your browser here and take a look on Codex’s public viewer-this is a real, published work by Graham Greene that is signed and where there were only 330 copies printed. It’s carefully stored in my personal library. Now, if I were to sell this book, the next owner would be able to claim a clear chain of provenance. As this ‘asset’ was not registered upon creation, there would always be a question of true provenance, but one could foresee a future where every creator (physical or digital media) is incentivized enough to make claim to their next work in a universally verifiable and transparent manner-aka some form of what everyone wants to call ‘the blockchain.’
For anyone interested, I would be happy to walk you through the steps necessary to register your own digital asset (especially if its a book…but I’m biased!) and discuss what implications this has for the business of transacting in collectible items that derive value from their authenticity and scarcity.
To start you will need to download Coinbase’s Wallet (fka Toshi) application, and purchase some Ether to pay the minimal (but arguably long-term prohibitive) fee to register the record on the ethereum blockchain.
Codex, its backers, and several other similar groups are trying to tackle a real problem. Think — Salvator Mundi, attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, was sold by Christie’s for $450 million and the debate of its authenticity rages on. Not a year (or month) goes by that we hear of plundered works being returned to a home country-how much more goes unnoticed. Specialists opine and provide fascinating insights, but we are all fallible. The promise of a future in which you buy a book and have complete faith in its own history-from the printing press to your favorite reading chair is within reach!
Join the journey, test out Codex, and let’s all discuss what the possibilities and pitfalls of this level of transparency mean for the sellers of collectible works.
Please get in touch (Books Above the Bend) to discuss any questions that you have about using Codex or to start a discussion about the future of rare books and the blockchain!