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Saturday, 25 June 2011

ePottering on

Of course we all knew the Harry Potter books were coming to eBook, so J K Rowling's so called surprise announcement earlier this week, was not really a surprise. What is interesting is that the author has decided to sell the books through her own website, cutting out the traditional publisher, and making the books DRM free - this is the clearest signal yet that the publishing world has been irrevocably changed by the emergence of eBooks.

AUTHOR J K Rowling has launched the Pottermore online reading experience, which will invite fans online, and will sell DRM-free eBooks of the series for the first time.The project, which is a collaboration with Sony, involves bringing the Harry Potter books online, telling the story through a web site and exclusively selling the ebook and audiobook versions in multiple languages.

Pottermore is live online now but will not become fully functional until October, but if readers register a email address they are promised early access to the delights the website has to offer. Potter fansite The Leaky Cauldron has been granted a sneak preview of the content and described it as "one of the most amazing, engaging and breathtaking additions to this fandom imaginable".

What makes Pottermore so interesting is that the ebooks will not feature digital restrictions management (DRM), copyright protection designed to prevent media content from being illegally distributed on filesharing networks. DRM is of course useful in the battle against piracy but it is far too restrictive for the end user. Maybe this new approach will see the eBooks attractively priced and thus make piracy less desirable. And besides pirated versions of the Potter books already exist so it makes perfect sense to put out official, better produced versions.

That the Pottermore website will be the only place selling the Harry Potter novels as digital downloads is a massive event. Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown made the claim the move was a gamechanger for the industry. He said:

"This does feel like a significant moment. If I was a brand author I would be asking my publisher how to get to the online communities that JK Rowling is getting to. It might be a wakeup call to think of a new way of getting to readers."

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