On Pottermore, Or: I should have expected that

As a fan of the Harry Potter series, when I first heard of the Pottermore website, my immediate thought was: “Hm. She’s doing more Potter stuff? Why? She doesn’t need the cash…” I was skeptical of the site, but I had no idea as to what it could possibly entail. I had caught a leak about Pottermore being some kind of MMO, which kinda-sorta piqued my interest, but nothing worth getting excited over.

Then, it happened:

NY Times – ‘Harry Potter’ Series to Be Sold as E-Books
Publisher’s Weekly – Pottermore Web Site to Sell E-Books in October
The Bookseller –  Confirmed: J K Rowling to sell Harry Potter e-books exclusively from Pottermore website

Of course. Of courseHarry Potter e-books. The thought of that is absolutely, positively, fantastically magical to me.

While some likely fictional people are unimpressed with the overall idea – this online network/community of new content for readers – the bigger, more important facet of this announcement warrants a lot of attention. E-books, guys! Harry Potter is coming to your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and – dare I say it – iPad! It’s a landmark that’s long overdue. Whether J.K. Rowling or her publisher is to blame, I don’t know. Nor do I care. But I know several thousand (at the very least) did.

What does this mean to publishers? What does this mean to readers?

I think this serves as a signal. With a series as popular and as permanent as Harry Potter turning to digital means in such a profound and personal way, publishers need to re-evaluate what that digital experience means to them in regard to their readers (and e-readers).

This could be the PR magic working on me, but I don’t think the digital medium, whether it be the web or the e-reader, can solely be a medium. It needs to present something else, something that goes beyond print – not just in form, but in content. We get that with many of our books, and I think even children’s books capture it best: an isolated space where content lives and thrives because of the interactivity it offers to young readers.

Yet I look at the stuff on my Nook and merely think “text on screen.” It’s my book, but it’s digital. It’s only another way of presenting the information I want to read. And I know a big part of it has to do with what the material is – obviously a personal reading experience lends itself more to an adventure series than a medical textbook – but are publishers doing what they can to go beyond bringing titles to a screen than just for convenience’ sake, or the chance to go “look at us, we’re digital now”?

That’s why e-readers (both the devices and the human counterpart, like myself) receive so much flack from those traditional foils: “I could never leave my [printed] book. I keep books for the experience of reading.” We haven’t figured out how to genuinely tap into and capture that experience within our devices.

Maybe Harry can help.


About Iris Amelia

Graduate student at Emerson College. Likes the color purple.

Posted on June 23, 2011, in ebooks, epublishing, harry potter, news, pottermore, reaction. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I had no idea that the Harry Potter series wasn’t already available as eBooks. In fact, I was just wondering the other day if I should head to an eBook-store to get them. But then I began to contemplate the issue I always have with purchasing eBooks, which is wondering if I should buy the eBooks before the physical books if I could only choose one. Like you say, there’s actually little difference between to the two mediums, so what could make an eBook stand out (other than portability)? I’ll be interested to see what develops with the Pottermore site—to see if it succeeds at bringing an interactive storytelling experience to the traditionally static (in a good way) novel.

    One other thing that I’d like to see with eBooks is bundles with physical books. Is that something that the publishing world is talking about? I’d be willing to pay a bit more for a physical book if it came with a digital copy (like I’ve seen with a lot of DVDs lately), especially since I’m someone who isn’t likely to buy a book at all unless I’m confident that it’s going to be a long-lasting part of my collection.

    By the way, I’m quite enjoying this new blog of yours!

    • I’m also for bundles. I know offering a music-industry comparison is dicey, but a few bands (including Wilco, which is how I heard about this) did promotions in the last couple years that offered an LP along with a CD or mp3 purchase. And I think that’s awesome.

      For ebook publishing, I imagine pricing would still be a major issue, though.

  2. I think games are a great way to add new story to a series. Knights of the Old Republic did something amazing for Star Wars and brought infinitely more to the series than any of the prequel movies did. However, I think I just don’t understand what Pottermore has to do with the digital copies of the book. They seem (at least as far as I can see) to be two separate things. It looks to me like all this is going to do for e-readers is inflate sales, probably mostly by already-existing fans of the series.

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