For a long time, the art of reading was a skill limited to only a select few educated souls. Mediums such as books, parchments and scrolls were carefully handwritten and were extremely rare and highly-prized by those who could decipher them. In ancient times, when writing first appeared, very few people were literate.
It was a state of affairs that didn’t really change until the invention of the first printing press by Johannes Guttenberg in the 15th Century. As printed books became more commonplace, literacy rates across the world began to increase. At first, the progress was slow, but with the industrial revolution leading to the ability to produce paper on a more massive scale, it quickly gathered pace. Along with industrialization came access to education, giving rise to newspapers and novels. The first bestsellers were published and literature rapidly became mainstream, with libraries and bookshops beginning to appear in almost every town and city. The written word became something everyone could enjoy.
It was technology that gave rise to the age of literacy, but as innovation accelerated, it rapidly altered the way people discover written content. Paper-based newspapers, magazines and books existed for hundreds of years, but in the last couple of decades, their circulation has declined. Instead, people read their news on computers and mobile devices via websites, while novels are often consumed on devices such as e-readers, smartphones and tablets.
The modern world is unrecognizable from the one in which Guttenberg lived. These days, we have access to all of the information we need at the click of a button or a smartphone screen. The days of running off to the library to flick through volumes of encyclopedias to find the information you need are long since gone. There are likely many who have never even ventured into a bookstore, or at least would struggle to recall the last time they did.
The ability for anyone to access the written word and all the information they’re ever likely to need has become ubiquitous across the world. It’s a trend that’s still gathering pace, as the world wide web becomes more accessible through the availability of cheap mobile devices
While some may be nostalgic for the days when paperbacks and newspapers were a permanent fixture on any good coffee table, the increased access to the written word is something to be celebrated. It has helped to catapult innovation, with location no longer a barrier to collaboration. Technology and the spread of the written word make it possible for us to share our knowledge instantly with anyone, no matter where they are on the planet.
In the past, writing a novel was a lonely task, as authors sat by themselves in their studies, shutting themselves off from the world to avoid any distractions as they put their ideas into words and onto paper. But in the digital age, writing a story doesn’t have to be a solitary task, as the same technologies that enabled literacy to flourish are enabling creative minds to come together and develop their prose in a more collaborative way.
This is the goal of the Quest of Evolution project, which was first created by the music producer and record label co-founder Andrew Nocker, motivated by a desire to create a platform that allows creatives to collaborate and receive fair compensation for their work. It’s an initiative that adopts some of the most cutting-edge technologies of our time – blockchain and NFTs – to create a decentralized, collaborative framework where novelists can come together to tell their stories and earn rewards for doing so.
In the #web3 space, collaboration among artists is the key to unlocking a new era of creative expression and unlocking the full potential of #blockchain technology.
What @TheQuestOfEvo offers to artists, writers and musicians 👇#collab3 #NFTCommunity pic.twitter.com/iUwPqGij3e
— The Quest of Evolution (@TheQuestOfEvo) February 9, 2023
With the Quest of Evolution, storytellers collaborate on books called “crypto-novels” that are represented as NFTs. Composed of visual art, a soundtrack and an initial paragraph, the owner of the NFT gains the right to add new words to the unfinished story within, allowing them to create the next chapter of the novel. Once they’re done, they can then sell the NFT to the next writer, who’ll gain the rights to add to the story before passing it on once again. The result is a kind of “living NFT” that’s constantly evolving and generating royalties for all previous authors. Each previous author (NFT owner) gains the rights to a share of the global royalty pool that collects 10% of each sale as the NFT is passed on, creating a passive income for all previous contributors that should accumulate as the story progresses.
NFTs provide a novel way of distributing content and rewarding its creators. Whereas with paperbacks, the original author will only ever receive proceeds from its initial sale at the bookstore, technology makes it possible for them to continue to earn royalties from each successive sale. It’s a unique revenue model that’s also being developed by the Darkland comic book series creator Macroverse. Darkland is a dark and sinister illustrated series that’s set in the depths of Hell, but its murky world is a bright one for its creators as it allows them to reap the benefits of its NFT platform. The NFT acts as a source file for each episode of the comic book, and can be made accessible to fans via subscription fees. Through royalties, both the owner of the NFT and also its creator can earn a passive income each time somebody pays to read their content, or purchase the NFT outright.
Innovation and change inevitably comes with a hint of sadness, especially with something emotional like books. Word processors and computers have all but killed off the written word as very few authors rely on a pen and paper anymore. Far fewer people read actual books anymore either, meaning they’ll never get to enjoy the pleasure of holding a hardback copy in their hands, thumbing through its pages and that unique scent of freshly printed paper.
But for all of this nostalgia, we should appreciate how technology has introduced millions of people around the world to the joys of reading and the knowledge it brings. Now, the technology is moving further along, enabling a new generation of collaboratively-written novels that promise a new kind of enjoyment.