J K Rowling has confirmed that she will release paid-for e-book versions of her incredibly successful Harry Potter books from her new website Pottermore "in partnership with J K Rowling’s publishers worldwide". The news was unveiled via YouTube and at a press conference held today (23rd June). Her UK publisher Bloomsbury will receive a share of the revenues, which put out a Stock Exchange announcement to make clear the revenue was already in its forecasts.
The e-books will be released in October, and will be available only on the Pottermore website, but will be compatible across a range of devices, including Amazon's Kindle. The facility is being provided by the e-book vendor OverDrive, which also serves the Waterstone's and W H Smith's e-book stores, as well as being a major player in the library e-book lending market.
Rowling has written extensive new material - 18,000 words - about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories, which will inform, inspire and entertain readers as they journey through the storylines for the books. The website itself has been built in partnership with Sony. It is ultimately intended to become an online reading experience, "extending the relevance of Harry Potter to new generations of readers, while still appealing to existing fans".
On the decision to sell direct to the reader, not through another e-tailer, J K Rowling said today: "It was quite straightforward for me . . . It means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time. I am personally lucky to have the resources to do it myself and I could do it, I think, right. I could find the right people and take my time. There was no other option for the fans or for me. Potter fandom was probably one of the first with an online community . . . so this felt like an extension of JKRowling.com." Neil Blair, her agent at Christopher Little, added that another motivation was that they did not want to restrict the content to a particular device.
OverDrive's involvement was revealed today at the UK press conference by Pottermore c.e.o Rod Henwood. Henwood said: "Overdrive are providing the platform for the e-books." Speaking to The Bookseller about whether the physical books will also feature on the site's shop, Henwood said: "[The physical publishers] are partners in this, you will see their presence prominent in the shop when it is launched, and they are involved in marketing the site. It is a very collaborative project, all contributing to the marketing and the activity. Their interests are aligned with ours." He added: "We won't sell physical books directly, certainly not on the site, but we will be providing links to publishers websites and if they sell the [physical] books there, people can obviously buy them."
With the e-books' availability, Henwood said: "We want to make sure anyone who buys it, can read it on any device, we are talking to the Kindles, the Apples, the Googles, Barnes & Noble to make sure they are compatible. We set the pricing, we maintain the policy of making them available to as many readers as possible."
Rowling talked about going into the digital format for the first time, and said: "It is my view that you can't hold back progress. I love printed paper . . . This year for the first time I have downloaded e-books and it's miraculous . . . I feel good about bringing it into this world." She added that she did come up with the name "Pottermore". She also said that at the time of writing the Potter series, she always knew she had more content than it would be possible to include in the books, in particular the back stories' of characters such as Professor McGonagall, and so this was a way for her to share that content. Some of the content will also be entirely new, with Rowling saying it was “scary” how easy it was for her to return to that world.
Asked if the additional material on the site will ever appear in a printed version, Rowling said: "I don't know at the moment. The world has kind of outstripped me. Back in 1995 I knew I was generating a lot more material than would appear in the book." She said there could "possibly" be a Harry Potter encyclopaedia, but said if she ever did do this, all proceeds would go to charity.
On the idea behind the site, Rowling said: "Any idea came out of discussions between Neil [Blair] and myself. We knew there was a big demand for e-books but I wanted it to be something more than that." She acknowledged there had been a lot of speculation about the site being a game, but said: "I wanted to pull it back to reading, to the literary experience. I've had a lot to do with virtually every aspect of the site." She said the site being free was part of “the give-back” to fans.
The site will not officially open until October, but one million winners of a Harry Potter competition will be given exclusive access to the site from the end of July.
Sarah Odedina, publisher & international editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury Children's Books said: "Bloomsbury is delighted to be partnering with Pottermore in this exciting new chapter for the Harry Potter books. It brings the books and the digital age together in an innovative and unique way."