Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pottermore: J.K. Rowling Goes Digital

Earlier this week, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, announced Pottermore, to the delight of many Potter fans wishing for a digital experience of Rowling's world of magic, wizards, and monsters. The author had long been against having her books turned into ebooks, but it seems that with this announcement, she has changed her mind. It is worth noting that she is releasing this herself via the site, as she owns all the digital rights to her work. I'm assuming this is so because she signed her contract for the Potter tales before digital books became mainstream.

Needless to say, the effect on bookstores and the publishing industry will be significant. J.K. Rowling is, in effect, self-publishing her already paper-published stories, and releasing them DRM-free via Pottermore. This bypasses her publisher and the bookstores that have sold millions and millions of Harry Potter copies. Given that ebooks are now at 20% of total sales (up from 1% four years ago), the numbers that Pottermore can generate most likely will not be insignificant. Remember how people lined up at stores before the day of a book's release, in the same way Apple fans lined up for the latest iPhone? This may or may not be a thing of the past after Pottermore, but the effect of her going digital has bookstores unhappy, and will certainly have an effect on publishing.

On the other hand, in a bit of a reversal from Rowling's position, we have Amanda Hocking, an author who was selling millions of copies of her books through self-publishing, signing up with a traditional publisher.

What I see here is that the stigma of being a self-publisher is lessening for an author, while traditional publishers are now more accommodating of authors who have released their books themselves and have proven their stories' saleability.


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