Pottermore Thrills Fans, Dismays E-Book Sellers

Pottermore Thrills Fans, Dismays E-Book Sellers

Excerpt from an article by Alma Buelva in The Philippine Star

The owls have gathered and more will come.

In London last June 23, J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter books, unveiled her latest project, Pottermore. It’s a website where millions of Harry Potter fans can experience a unique online reading experience unlike any other, said Rowling herself in a YouTube clip where she made the announcement.

A sneak-peek at Rowling’s YouTube clip gives the impression that Pottermore would be nothing short of magical. The site will have chat forums and, best of all, it will feature many untold stories from the series that Rowling said she has been hoarding for years but failed to include in her books. She also admitted to have written at least 54,000 words worth of new material about characters, places, events and objects from the Harry Potter world. Of that, about a third will be ready in time for the site’s launch.

The fans are happy.

Pottermore will also be the place to buy the audio book formats and, for the first time, official copies of e-books. The site will be the exclusive source of all digital versions of Harry Potter books.

The e-books will also be Digital Rights Management (DRM) free, which means they will be readable on any electronic book format and e-book readers.

E-book merchants are not happy.

Online e-book sellers like Amazon and Apple can’t be happy about the fact that they won’t have a share of the potentially huge Harry Potter e-books sales. But they can only watch from the sidelines as Rowling takes full control of her books’ digital rights.

Luckily for her, there were no digital books yet when she signed a publishing deal with Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 13 years ago or they would have acquired both the print and digital rights to the Harry Potter books.

That gives Rowling not only full control and ownership of all digital copies of Harry Potter, but also all revenues from sales. Reports, however, said she offered to give both her UK and US publishers a cut.

The fact that Pottermore is being developed in partnership with Sony also intrigued other e-book sellers. Warner Brothers owns the rights to Harry Potter films and games, so Sony can’t commercially benefit in this way. Nor can Sony release an e-reader as an exclusive device for the Harry Potter e-books because, as stated earlier, the digital versions are going to be DRM-free and available in all formats for all types of e-readers.

Apparently, Harry Potter e-books will use digital watermarking so every copy sold can be traced back from a specific buyer. This is akin to what Apple iTunes does.

The jury is still out as to whether Rowling’s bold move will change the world of book publishing both for print and digital versions. Certainly, she doesn’t seem to be taking the shortcut by just putting plain electronic copies of her books online. This early, the massive original creative work being put in Pottermore is evident and sets the bar high for other authors and publishers to follow. It’s certainly not the kind of pop-up book we used to know.

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