Physical bookshops frustrated with Pottermore

Retailers have criticised J K Rowling's decision to sell the Harry Potter e-books directly through the Pottermore website, with Waterstone's saying physical bookshops are "effectively banned" from selling the digital editions.

Rowling revealed this morning she would exclusively sell the seven books in the Potter series as e-books from October on her Pottermore site. Her publisher Bloomsbury will get a share of the revenues and the e-books will be available across a range of devices, including the Amazon Kindle.

However, retailers reacted strongly to the news. A spokesperson for Waterstone's said: "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."

At W H Smith, Rachel Russell, business unit director for books, said it was "disappointing" physical stores would not get the chance to sell the titles as e-books. She said W H Smith would hope the site "reinvigorates" sales of the physical books and that the chain could take advantage of that.

She added: "Harry Potter is unique in that it's a massive brand and it's J K Rowling's prerogative as to how she chooses to control that. She has done an incredible amount for children's reading over the past couple of decades, particularly getting young boys into books. As a major physical retailer, I would say we will continue to explore opportunities for the physical titles."

Independents were also critical. Tom Hunt, orders department of the Norfolk Children's Book Centre, said: "It's another madness of the digital publishing world that doesn't support the booksellers that have sold the books and supported them. It's just another step on the path to death by 1,000 cuts."

Melanie Carroll, owner of Unicorn Tree Books in Lincoln, said: "I just think it is sad that that is they way it has gone now, instead of working together these days we seem to be cutting the legs off."

However, Foyles' c.e.o. Sam Husain said he felt the e-books could serve as a "good promotional tool" for the physical titles. He said: "It's not necessarily a threat but could be an opportunity as people get interested in the series again. Harry Potter worked well for us but it wasn't the biggest strength of our chain. It has always been backlist and range."

A spokesperson for JK Rowling declined to comment at the time of going to press.

Futurebook: Pottermore - the world's biggest enhanced e-book