Will Pottermore revolutionise publishing?

27th June 2011

The interactive site will launch in October

Apart from the new content, the site will be the only source for digital versions of the Harry Potter books. This is proving the most controversial part of the project and has already attracted criticism from some book sellers.

Among other industry fears is that well known authors with box office appeal will no longer need the publishing industry. Rowling retains the digital rights though her two publishers Bloomsbury and in the US Scholastic, do get a cut.

The sponsor of the site is Sony, not Warner Brothers, which makes the films and owns the rights to related games. It is not yet clear what commercial benefits Sony will derive though the site does not feature anything that could quite be called a game according to reviewers.

The books will be Digitial Rights Management (DRM) free meaning they can be read on any electronic book reading device which could prove to be the most revolutionary part of the move.  

But first the Vancouver Sun reviews the website below. 

It writes: "Pottermore.com, while not perfect, represents a significant landmark for digital publishing. J.K. Rowling has not just hauled out her manuscript and plonked it onto a website with a bit of frilly window-dressing from a digital agency. Instead, she has laboured for a year in close collaboration with creative developers TH_NK to curate an experience that really takes advantages of the unique properties of the web."

The UK publishing industry's newspaper the Bookseller reports on discontent from its readers.

The reaction from Waterstone's is typical. A spokesperson said:"We always sought to add value for the fans when a new Harry Potter book was released and their launch days have become the stuff of legend at Waterstone's and other booksellers. We're therefore disappointed that, having been a key factor in the growth of the Harry Potter phenomenon since the first book was published, the book trade is effectively banned from selling the long-awaited e-book editions of the series."

Rival book seller Foyles is more upbeat with CEO Sam Husain suggesting the e-books could serve as a "good promotional tool" for the physical titles.

Claire Rogers on the Bookseller message boards says Rowling's decision is really bad news for the like of Amazon.

"I didn't think one could simply walk into a book store and buy an ebook. How would that even work? You pay 69p in change and they give you a USB stick?I think she is selling exclusively through Pottermore so that giants like Amazon won't be able to sell the ebooks solely to Kindle users or Apple to iPad users etc. She is strong in her view that the books should be available over all formats and not exclude any readers."

Here blogsite the AV club is in sceptical mood however about all the money Rowling stands to make.

Genevieve Koski writes: "It'll be the only place to purchase Harry Potter e-books, which have been unavailable up to this point due to a shrewd arrangement by Rowling with her publishers. Reports have suggested e-book rights would be worth upwards of $160 million; by selling them on her own platform-which is DRM-free, meaning they can be read on any e-book device-Rowling stands to make much, much more than that, ensuring she can now buy a solid gold money bin in which to house her current solid gold money bin."

And US technology journal Wired considers the DRM issue here

"Rowling has opted to keep the e-books DRM-free, meaning that they are not locked into one device or platform. She is instead opting for digital watermarking that links the identity of the purchaser to the copy of the e-book. This doesn't prevent copyright theft but does ensure that any copies will be traceable to a particular user. This is similar to how iTunes is DRM-free, but embeds user account information within each file purchased," it writes.

Here Wired UK  considers the implications for Rowling's business stakeholders.

Talking about the deal's benefits to Sony, it writes: "Intriguingly, Rowling has signed up Sony as a partner on the Pottermore project. As a maker of e-book readers, there have been rumblings as to whether the new e-book editions might be Sony exclusives.

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