Pottermore, an “online reading experience built around the world of Harry Potter”, launched in beta yesterday after some delays. As well as becoming a destination where fans of the book series can interact with the brand, Pottermore also includes a digital book store where all seven Harry Potter novels are sold exclusively in digital form – crucially bypassing traditional publisher and online retailers alike.
The Pottermore Shop is the only destination where digital copies – text and audio – of the Harry Potter series can be purchased. Initially they’re available in International and American English only, with French, Italian, German and Spanish editions scheduled in the coming weeks.
The Harry Potter ebooks are “compatible with all leading reading devices and platforms”, including Sony’s Reader, Google Play, Amazon Kindle and NOOK. This basically means they can be read on any Android or iOS device (iPod, iPhone and iPad), Mac or Windows PC, as well as more dedicated reading devices like the Kindle and NOOK.
Digital editions of each novel typical cost £2 less than its print counterpart.
Although the books are only available exclusively from the Pottermore website, Amazon and Barnes & Noble do have affiliate marketing arrangements in place – meaning they simply refer potential buyers to the Pottermore website for a small, and unknown, percentage of any resulting saleme.
By taking control of digital publishing, the books’ author J.K. Rowling can expect to receive around 70-90% of online sales. Compare this to 12.5-17.5% a typical publisher would pass on to the author. Large retailers are losing out also as the transaction no longer takes place on their system where appropriate seller fees can be deducted. Instead, they might earn money by referring potential buyers, albeit significantly less than before.
It’s easy to see the advantages an author might have by taking most of the control away from publishers and large retailers. The Harry Potter brand is strong enough and wealthy enough to do this, but can other smaller authors emulate?