Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pottermore a "gamechanger" for authors

The Bookseller24.06.11 | Bookseller Staff

J K Rowling’s new Pottermore website has been described as a gamechanger in how bestselling authors deal with their readers, as the press extensively covered the news of the Harry Potter author's new venture.
The Guardian newspaper carried details of what the site would entail and the fact that it would be the only place selling the Harry Potter novels as digital downloads. 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."

The Telegraph’s Olivia Solon said Pottermore represents "a significant landmark for digital publishing" and praised Rowling for the social network element of the site and "not just hauling out her manuscript and plonking it onto a website with a bit of frilly window-dressing from a digital agency."

She said: "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."
However, she added: "Pottermore is still very much a second screen experience which runs separate to the e-book files as opposed to being integrated into an interactive tablet experience."

The Daily Mail estimated Rowling is likely to "rake in millions" because Pottermore is the only medium selling the Harry Potter e-books.
Rowling told BBC News 18,000 words of new material about characters, places and objects was being released online, rather than in a new book, because she did not have "a new story".
She told the organisation: "It's background, and lots of details that didn't make it into the book. Some of it is new stuff in response to things fans have asked me over the years."

And from PublishersLunch

The expected media frenzy after JK Rowling's Pottermore announcement Thursday came with the usual hyperbole and breathless talk of how selling ebooks direct will "change" publishing (because one can always extrapolate on the future based on the creative approach of one author, especially one as successful as Rowling in terms of marketing to and reaching readers) or that Rowling blazes a trail for self-publishing, never mind that her main publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic will receive royalties off of each and every direct ebook sale.

More interesting and relevant is how Pottermore affects physical and online retailers whose profits once depended heavily on sales of Rowling's books, and whose digital platforms are supposed to allow for reading Harry Potter ebooks, but who will not be able to sell them. It seems likely that, with Pottermore to launch in full by October, there's still enough time for Rowling and the largest players in the ebook space to come to some mutually beneficial financial agreements.
To that end, vp of digital content Theresa Horner told us, “We're working closely with Pottermore to make Harry Potter ebooks available on our line of NOOK devices when the Pottermore store goes live. Details have yet to be worked out." (A spokesperson for Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.)

The same also goes for the Potter audiobooks. iTunes currently sells the digital versions of those audiobooks, but the FT cited "people familiar with the business" who said those editions will be removed and sold solely on the Pottermore site, and "Rowling’s audio sales contract with Apple will in effect be terminated."

Sony, however may in fact be in the mix, again according to the FT, who said the company, a joint partner in Pottermore, is "developing related products, including a themed version of its Sony reader."
Physical retailers in the UK and US, however, expressed concern about the Pottermore ebook news. Waterstone's spokesman Jon Howells 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."
WH Smith's Rachel Russell told the Bookseller she was "disappointed" by the news but hoped the ebook sales would "reinvigorate" print sales and the chain would benefit as a result. And Roxane Coady of RJ Julia told the AP "Bricks and mortar stores are taking a lot of bullets and there's a limit to how many bullets we can take. If the sellers of the Rowling e-books are saying they don't need bricks and mortar stores, then that's the result you'll get."
When Pottermore does launch, it will be available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, with a Japanese version to follow at a later date.

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