Publishing News: Direct "Potter" ebook sales fire up the book world

Harry Potter goes digital (and exclusive), Amazon tablet rumors abound, and faster horses won't cut it

Here are a few publishing highlights from the past week. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published here on Radar.)

Harry Potter ebooks coming via new Pottermore site

JK Rowling’s announcement of her Pottermore website — and the long-awaited arrival of “Harry Potter” ebooks — was the most talked about story this week in publishing circles.

Pottermore will offer extra Harry Potter content for fans (Wired has a nice breakdown on the content speculation), and in the fall the site will exclusively sell the ebook versions of the popular series. Thanks to a partnership with Overdrive, the ebooks will be available across multiple ereading platforms, including the Kindle.

Rowling introduces Pottermore in this short video:

In a post by Philip Jones and Charlotte Williams for, Rowling commented on why she’s choosing to sell directly to her readers:

It was quite straightforward for me … It means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time.

Some see the move as the big game changer in publishing, and it definitely has ruffled some feathers. In a post on Beattie’s Book Blog, a spokesperson for UK book retail giant Waterstone commented:

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.

The site will go live in October, but Rowling will hold a contest that will give one million fans early access to Pottermore in July.

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Amazon tablet rumors leak


The rumor mill lit up this week with leaks of a possible Amazon tablet coming to market in August or September. Digitimes says Amazon is aiming to sell 4 million units, globally, this year.

Additionally, Ed Sutherland notes in a Cult of Mac post:

Earlier leaks indicate the Kindle-maker will offer two tablet versions: a 7-inch device codenamed “Coyote” for $349 and a 10-inch model for $449.

A PC World post points out that Amazon hasn’t officially commented, but that same post also links to a story where Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Consumer Reports to “stay tuned.”

A faster horse isn’t the answer: How content should be conceived in a mobile world

As the mobile space increasingly connects the real and virtual worlds, changing the way people communicate, shop, read, and (very soon) pay for things, some argue that amidst all these shifts the space really needs a creative spark. Taking the analog experience and simply making it digital isn’t cutting the mustard.

In the spirit of disruption, I’ve reached out to several people across the tech and publishing industries to answer one question: If you were going to build an app that fully harnessed mobile’s capabilities, what would it do and how would it work?

Up first is Joe Wikert (@jwikert), general manager and publisher at O’Reilly Media. Wikert recently posted a piece bemoaning the state of digital content, specifically in relation to magazines. He summed up the issue succinctly in his post:

The bottom line is that I had higher hopes for the shorter-form content model by now. I’m hard-pressed to point to any one magazine app and say, “yeah, they’ve really created something special here.” Instead, the Wired’s of the world came in and offered the print content in e-format and thought they could charge a lot for it. I’m glad they’ve learned that won’t work, but now I’m hoping they’ll start experimenting more, either on their own or jointly with some of their competitors.

Joe’s response to my question follows:

If you were going to build an app that fully harnessed mobile’s capabilities, what would it do and how would it work?


Joe Wikert: That’s the million-dollar question … or maybe the billion-dollar one! I have a few thoughts on the capabilities required to capture my attention, but I also realize that there are probably many features I haven’t even thought of. It reminds me (once again) of a Henry Ford quote I like to toss out from time to time: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” In other words, if customers aren’t already used to a particular platform or its potential capabilities, it’s easy for them to limit their thinking to what they already know, not what they haven’t yet experienced.

One of the key things I’d like to see happen with content is for us to stop looking at it through the lens of a book. We tend to get hung up with animating page-turns and we think less about how the content should be conceived in a digital-first (or digital-only) world.

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Photo: Kindle vs. iPad by kodomut, on Flickr


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