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Pottermore launches Harry Potter ebooks

2 April 2012

The launch of the Harry Pottter books in ebook form last week was described by the Bookseller's Philip Jones as 'digital publishing's Beatles moment'. He said 'These will be huge - they are a game changer because of the power of the Potter brand.' (The Harry Potter series has sold 450m print copies worldwide to date.)

Pottermore, J K Rowling's new Harry Potter website, is the only place selling the ebooks, available now for the first time. The first three are priced at £4.99 and the last four longer ones are being sold at £6.99. Groundbreakingly, they feature on retailer websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but can only be bought from Pottermore. The iBookstore does not feature them yet and there is no agreement to date with Waterstones or W H Smith in the UK.

Charlie Redmayne, Pottermore CEO, said: 'You have to take into consideration that there will be a lot of pent-up demand, people who have wanted to buy Harry Potter e-books but haven't been able to. There will also be a lot of people who want to buy the whole series.' Presumably that will be the case, but it does make you wonder whether fans won't already have read the books in print form. Will these fans and new Harry Potter readers prefer to have the books as ebooks?

Amazon, ever-efficient, were the first to have the books available on their site but they are making only an affiliate profit on the ebook sales. Mike Shatzkin points out that Pottermore had agreed to watermark the ebooks rather than protecting them with DRM (Digital Rights Management) software. This meant that anyone could get them on a Kindle. So Amazon decided to accept what they were offered and to go with the affiliate deal, which was definitely better than not getting a share of the action at all. Shatzkin's comment was: 'In other words, in a refreshing change from recent history, the content owner was able to present Amazon with a "take it or leave it" proposition. They decided to "take it". They were wise. The game was changing either way.'

It is believed to be the first time Amazon and Barnes & Noble have allowed an e-book sold on a third-party retail site to be downloaded onto a Kindle or Nook device. Presumably Harry Potter ebooks were just too big a deal to pass up on, although it is curious that Amazon have not used this as more of an opportunity to sell the Kindle, particularly as there are plenty of young people who don't yet own one.

Pottermore itself, the virtual world, is expected to be launched within the next few days.