TL;DR for this post: I’m joining the Bitcoin economy and selling The Reintegrators for 0.02 BTC. See the main book page for more information about the novel and how to purchase it.
In the past month or so I’ve been reading more and more about Bitcoin, a form of “crypto-currency” which is quickly rising to become somewhat of a phenomenon.
I don’t want to bore the already initiated with a long explanation of what a decentralized crypto-currency is (see the above link for a simple explanation). But essentially, there are two reasons why Bitcoin has emerged as a sudden success amongst a graveyard of ill-begotten cypherpunk dreams:
- Technical wizardry, namely some clever optimizations which make it possible to widely distribute a log of every Bitcoin transaction, and the idea to reward users for verifying transactions by granting them coins, an activity known as “mining” which serves the dual purpose of supplying the currency and keeping the network cryptographically secure.
- Coming out at just the right time to take advantage of faster computers, more Internet bandwidth and an international political environment which is increasingly distrustful of financial institutions and the governments which control them.
Now, reading about the technical ins and outs of Bitcoin is one thing, but it quickly became clear that in order to really follow what was going on, I would need some skin in the game. I decided to exchange some of my USD for BTC and see first-hand what everyone was so excited about. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit more of a hassle than I expected; the time when I decided to get into Bitcoin also coincided with some changes in US regulatory policy which meant that the popular exchanges were starting to demand rigorous proof of ID, which is a deterrent to a dabbler like me who only wants $10 or so of the currency to play around with. While I would later find out about some other methods of obtaining Bitcoin, I ended up stumbling upon another solution first: mining.
While I’ll admit that I’m perhaps more technically adept than the average Internet user, even I was surprised by how easy mining Bitcoin turned out to be. Some quick googling turned up a link to Slush’s Pool, which seems to be one of the more popular Bitcoin pools (a group of miners working together). Following the instructions, I installed the most basic, point-and-click miner, configured it to use my GPU (a Radeon HD 7800 series), and after using a Bitcoin client to generate an address for the pool to send funds to, I was up and running in around ten minutes.
Then came the more surprising result: I was actually making money. According to my Kill-A-Watt (a really handy device I encourage everyone to purchase), my GPU uses 75 watts at full tilt, which translates to around 27 cents a day in electricity costs. From this, my machine was generating approximately 0.0125 BTC daily, which at the time was a net profit of $1.33 (note that I’m not factoring in the cost of running the rest of my PC, since I leave it on all the time anyway, although if I did include it I would still be in the black).
As of this writing, an increase in difficulty (a value built into the protocol which controls the flow of new coins) and a drop in the price of Bitcoin has reduced the potential of GPU mining, but really, that’s probably for the best; common sense dictates that a state of affairs which permits such a casual user as myself to operate at a profit is not sustainable. Still, I did succeed in my goal of amassing a total of 0.10288667 BTC (= $10.49 USD today) before I stopped.
Now the question is: what to spend it on? Or do I even want to spend it? The price of Bitcoin has been known to fluctuate rapidly, but its long-term value depends on whether it can overcome some near-term obstacles (such as reducing barriers to entry) while its core users maintain their enthusiasm and optimism. It’s often asserted that Bitcoins are a poor investment because they are purely virtual: their value is not pegged to any real-world good or service (except the consumption of energy). This might be enough to give you pause until you realize it’s how all major world currencies have worked since 1971. True, if people stop believing in Bitcoin, it will die as quickly as a fairy in Neverland, just like dollars will cease to have value if the majority of Americans stop believing in the constitution. The only difference is that the former could actually occur unless Bitcoin’s advocates continue their tireless crusade for mainstream acceptance.
I’m not a speculator and I don’t expect Bitcoin to make me (a substantial amount of) money, nor do I have a political agenda. But still, I’d like to see Bitcoin succeed. Perhaps it’s because as a writer of sci-fi and fantasy, I’m attracted to what is essentially real-life science fiction. Bitcoin appears to be one of the truly disruptive technologies of my lifetime, a completely new way of implementing one of human civilization’s oldest and most important inventions. Hell, a casual browsing of Bitcoin forums reveals what could easily be the outlines to a half-dozen fully formed novels every day: speculation on Bitcoin becoming a de-facto world currency and the Chinese spending $2 billion on ASICs to control it; trojan botnets which mine or steal thousands (or millions) of dollars worth of Bitcoins; hunting the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s Pseudonymous creator; etc.
Besides which, I don’t agree with the principle of fearing new things because they’re different. The universe is constantly changing, and unless we’re willing to change with it (or at least give change a try), we’ll be doomed to perish.
To that end, I’ve decided to offer the e-book edition of my new novel The Reintegrators for sale at 0.02 BTC, which is about two-thirds of what you’d pay on Amazon. Selling the book this way won’t help my Amazon ranking, which is unfortunately rather important in today’s e-book world, but it does set me apart and perhaps gives me access to readers which I would never reach otherwise. And if any Bitcoin aficionados like it enough to leave a positive review on Amazon or tell their friends about it, that would end up helping me even more than a higher rank would. Plus, I get the added benefit of participating in the Bitcoin economy, and passing the coins forward by spending them on goods and services.
To purchase the book, click here to go to my Yumcoin product page. Or if science fiction novels featuring secret societies of mystics exploring parallel universes aren’t your thing, drop me a note here or in private if you have any feedback with regard to how I’m using Bitcoin, or ideas for spending what I’ve earned so far.