JK Rowling’s New (Magic) Trick: Harry Potter E-Books
As of Tuesday, March 27, readers making their way through J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series need no longer hasten to a bookstore or library to get the next book: You can now download the seven novels as e-books via Rowling’s Pottermore website. While the e-books are only available on Pottermore, they can be read on a number of devices including Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and the Google Play as well as computers, tablets and cellphones. Once readers have purchased a book, they can download it up to eight times on any device.
The first three books are priced at $7.99 and the last four at $9.99 each for the US version. All seven cost $57.54 and there will also be editions in French, Spanish, German and Italian. As Joshua Gans details on Forbes, the prices for the equivalent UK versions are 4.99, 6.99 and 38.64 pounds (approximately $7.91, $11.08 and $61.26 — a bit more expensive). The UK version does not, though, seem to be available to download from the US.
Is J.K. Rowling Changing the Face of E-Publishing?
Rowling’s novels have been noticeably absent in e-book form and having them finally available in digital format is equivalent to the Beatles showing up on iTunes, says Gans. Even more, Matthew Yglesias declares on Slate that Rowling has “just transformed book publishing.”
It’s not just that you can now download Harry Potter’s adventures straight onto your phone to carry around with you. Rowling’s making the e-book form of her novel available only from her website means that she has retained exclusive digital rights to her writing. If you wish to read her e-books, you go straight to her, the author, with no middleman — no publisher.
Furthermore, by making her books downloadable onto any sort of e-device, Rowling has avoided the perils of “potential device lock-in,” says Gans on Digitopoly. Readers won’t feel – won’t have — to stick to only Amazon’s or Apple’s version, but can read on whatever device they please, a first for any e-book.
Rowling has sold 450 million copies of her Harry Potter novels so far. The print versions made over $6 million — some 4 million pounds — last year. As Philip Jones, deputy editor of The Bookseller, says in the Guardian, Rowling & co. certainly have no reason to see their print sales “evaporate,” but do want to see their digital business grow. Thus, pricing for Potter e-books, while not yet “aggressive,” could become so; Jones also says that Rowling might offer “enhanced” versions of her books.
By selling her e-books exclusively on Pottermore and by making them available on any e-format, Rowling has gotten around two issues bedeviling e-publishing. In particular, she has found a way to break out of the Apple-only / Kindle-only “thou shalt only publish an e-book in ONE format” regulation. Of course, many — most — authors will not be able to set up their own shop (sites) as Rowling has and rack up the site visitors and sales. Is Rowling pioneering a new model for e-publishing or has she simply executed a trick that only the author of Harry Potter can perform?
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