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Edmonton Public Library makes history by lending local author’s book as non-fungible token

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An Edmonton author decided to publish only one copy of his latest book and he did it in a non-traditional way: as a non-fungible token (NFT).

Todd Babiak decided to make just one copy of The Daughters of Walsingham as an NFT. The book was then purchased using digital currency by Edmonton businessman Chris Labossiere, who gifted the only digital copy to the Edmonton Public Library.

That means Edmontonians will have exclusive and free access to the book.

It’s history in the making. EPL becomes the first library to lend an NFT item for free with a library card. The copy is available to EPL cardholders through the OverDrive app starting March 22.

Read more: What are NFTs? Alan Cross explains why the music industry is going crazy for them

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It also means Babiak is the first author in the world to sell a complete novel as an NFT to just one buyer.

“We are thrilled to be part of this extraordinary story,” said EPL’s Tina Thomas. “To be on the edge of new technology that could change the way books are published and offered in the future is so exciting.

“We’re thankful for the generosity of library supporters like Chris Labossiere, who has allowed Edmonton audiences exclusive access to this incredible piece of fiction from one of our favourite local authors.”

An NFT is a one-of-a-kind digital asset that represents real objects like art, music and books. They are bought and sold online, usually with cryptocurrency and are becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell digital artwork.

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Think of it as a record of who owns a piece of digital content.

“Art is the perfect use-case for smart contracts,” Babiak said. “Instead of publishing The Daughters of Walsingham the traditional way, tokenizing a novel — like any artwork, or any contract — allows me to have a direct connection with my reader.

“It is a simple, efficient, elegant and secure way to make a contract with anyone and why not publish a novel this way and see what happens? Just one book, one buyer, one close relationship with just one reader,” he added.

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Babiak’s daughters inspired the book. The Daughters of Walsingham is the story of 14-year-old Gwendolyn Spire, who lives in Alaska in 1962. She is then summoned to Walsingham Academy, a secret place where girls have been trained in clandestine activities for generations.

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The EPL is using this as an opportunity to learn more about NFTs and share those learnings with the community. It — along with Bossiere’s support — is also giving way more people access to a book that otherwise would have only been available to the single book buyer.

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Over the next few months, EPL will be hosting opportunities for learning about cryptocurrency, blockchain and NFTs through classes and events.

Read more: Edmonton’s significantly revamped Stanley A. Milner Library opens doors to the public

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us to once again be a library leader in embracing new technology that is changing the way readers access literary works of art,” Thomas said. “We are diving into the new world of digital creation and sharing, and we look forward to continuing to experiment and learn along-side our customers.”

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