Todd Babiak novel highlights promise of NFT technology at Edmonton Public Library
'It's silly the concept of one person owning that one copy of a book'
Chris LaBossiere is a big fan of Todd Babiak's latest novel, The Daughters of Walsingham, which is good since he paid about $8,000 to read it.
LaBossiere says he bought the sole copy of the book directly from Babiak as a non-fungible token (NFT) "on a bit of lark.
"It felt like a tiny onramp for me into the beginning process of learning [about NFTs]," he said.
NFTs are digital items, often visual art, that are bought and sold online. While the items may be readily available to anyone online, people who buy or collect NFTs are more concerned about ownership and authenticity.
Babiak, who lives in Tasmania, compares owning an NFT to having a poster of a Van Gogh on your wall. The original art is in a museum, but the person with the poster has their own relationship with the art.
Still, he says the decision to sell his book as an NFT was a bit of a risk.
"My wife thought I was insane," Babiak said. "Even friends who wanted to read the book were mad at me and thought it was crazy."
Babiak said he came up with the idea for The Daughters of Walsingham by talking with his daughters. Together they came up with a story LaBossiere calls a bit Harry Potter meets James Bond.
Babiak says the book focuses on a group of highly-trained, intelligent girls who are "behind all the big moments" in history.
By purchasing the book as an NFT around Christmas, LaBossiere became the only person who could read it.
But he and Babiak saw more possibilities for NFT books.
"It's silly the concept of one person owning that one copy of a book," LaBossiere said.
So, he proposed loaning the book to Edmonton Public Library (EPL).
Now anyone with an EPL card can read the book for free.
Using the library's Overdrive or Libby apps, readers can download the book to their device and read it like any other e-book.
It is exciting for the library to be able to lend an NFT, said Tina Thomas, EPL's executive director of customer experience.
"I think what we're doing is pretty cool and I don't think it's being done anywhere else," she said.
Thomas says the library intends to use the book to encourage Edmontonians to learn about NFTs, blockchain and cryptocurrency.
And, she said, there are benefits to having the book as an NFT rather than as an e-book.
When the library buys e-books and audiobooks, publishers restrict the number of copies the library can lend.
But because LaBossiere owns the book instead of a publisher, the library can make as many copies of the book as they need, Thomas said.
"They've taken a technology that [was intended to be] a way to have interactions between individuals and found a way to make it something that could be a gift to all Edmontonians," Thomas said.