On Thursday, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling cleared up the "mystery" of her Pottermore website. As many suspected, it will be an exclusive venue for selling the books in e-book form directly to consumers as well as a social networking site for Potter heads. Given that Rowling has, to date, stubbornly refused to make Harry and Co. available via e-reader, what does this development mean for the publishing industry? Four takes:
1. It represents a "tipping point" for e-books: "Pottermore.com could absolutely move the needle toward widespread e-reader adoption in a way that no other series possibly could," says Laura Hazard Owen at Paid Content. It's perfectly positioned to bring in a number of new e-reader adopters: Adults who never read the print versions; fans of the books who want the digital experience; and a new generation of kids who've never read the books. That's potentially millions of e-Potter buyers. "Combine that massive audience with falling e-reader prices and the release of the books near the holiday season," and it's shaping up to be an e-publishing "tipping point."
"Three ways Pottermore.com could change book publishing"
2. It's a model for empowering authors: Rowling has cut out the middleman to create an exclusive distribution channel for Potter e-books, says Nicholas Jackson in The Atlantic. Not only will she get to keep most of the profits herself, she'll also get to dictate the terms. The "site is sure to capture an entirely new audience for her work and provide a platform that will squeeze even more money from her fans," who are only too happy to spend on Harry and Co.
"J.K. Rowling's new Pottermore site will change digital publishing"
3. It empowers consumers, too: There's a "crucial parallel" between Pottermore and Radiohead's decision to self-release In Rainbows with a "pay-what-you-want" strategy in 2007, says Olivia Solon in Wired. "Both [Rowling and Radiohead] put their faith in the fans rather than any intermediary." While Radiohead trusted fans to pony up what they could for the album, Rowling is releasing her e-books without piracy protection. She's "trusting her fans not to pirate her works rather than assuming they will." Publishing has long avoided a direct relationship with consumers, selling to retailers not the readers themselves, "but the rise of consumer empowerment in a digital world means that this will have to change."
"With 'Harry Potter,' publishing finally has its 'Radiohead moment'"
4. Oh, and apologies to Amazon: Bad news for Amazon and its Kindle, says Dan Frommer at Business Insider. Rowling has said the Harry Potter e-books will be compatible with any e-reader or tablet. That raises key questions, since the Kindle only supports a proprietary Kindle e-reader format, whereas the iPad, Nook, and other devices support a format called ePub. "So, how is this all going to work?" Rowling might exert pressure on Amazon to do one of two things: Let her sell Kindle-format books through her own website, or start supporting ePub on the Kindle. Doing the latter "could potentially weaken Amazon's grip on the Kindle," but if anyone can strong arm Amazon, it's Rowling.
"Here's how Harry Potter And "Pottermore" could force Amazon to open up the Kindle"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How a degree from Duke University dashed my dreams of buying a home
- This is why you can't trust the NSA. Ever.
- Half the world's population lives in these 6 countries
- Innocent before proven guilty? The bizarre bipartisan rush to clear Rick Perry
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The single best way to help your kid succeed at school
- What Keeping Up with the Kardashians can teach America about interracial marriage
- ISIS and the echoes of the West's religious terror
- Welcome to the age of ambivalent feminism
Subscribe to the Week