News

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

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Now here's how it might have been handled better:
The Bookseller: "Hello, we wondered how you feel about the Harry Potter books being published. Are you angry that it doesn't give physical booksellers a chance to sell the titles as e-books?"
This is where the media antenna should twitch. It's a leading question, inviting the retailer to slot neatly into the box marked 'whinging bookseller'. What the bookseller should have thought to him or herself was that in the new, positive,partnering, lets-embrace-change-in-the-brave-new-world business context outlined so eloquently at the BA conference, never explain and never complain. So even though the possible answers might have included 'whatever' or 'couldn't give a monkey's', the correct answer in fact is: "Nothing to say, Goodbye.".

Since when do physical bookstores sell digital books? Since when does legacy publishing do anything but demean ebooks and their authors?

Ancient Mariner - yes we could have said nothing but at the end of the day making true statements is not whinging, it's comment!

Some of us were quite positive in what we did say along with the negative but truthful statements that it is quite sad that we seem to be losing the art of proper collaboration and support.
Some of us pointed out it's not just Potterverse and ebooks but things like sainsbury's and exclusive deals that show the wider problems and frustrations at heart here for high street based bookshops and especially indies.

Some of us said that though we regretted not being able to be part of this venture we could fully understand that selling direct in this way was to the benefit of the author and publisher and at a commercial level could fully understand and appreciate this, didn't necessarily totally agree with it due to the long term effects against short term gain but could honestly understand it ;-)

Some of us hope that this will re-invigorate the potter franchise again and that this will help at increasing physical book sales in shops of all types.

some of us spoke of the fact that ebook sales against physical sales isn't the b-all and end all that some think, some of us are ourselves ebook readers of longstanding and understand buying an ebook does not preclude buying the self same thing in physical format too, or indeed vice-versa - I think there are a good few ebook consumers like that out there and I would love to see a survey done to see what percentage of readers are like that and likely to continue to be like that.

Some of us spoke of how in fact some secondhand bookshops could do well from ebook releases including the Potter ones if, like is now happening in some shops in the States, people decide to offload some of their physical double ups once they have the ebook version instead so as to free up bookshelf space one hopes!

The truth is no comment does not address or change the situation at hand anymore than sometimes making comment does, but it is better to address a situation than ignore it and ust hope it gets better - even if that is at the risk as being seen as a whinging bookseller.

Personally I just see it as being an open and honest bookseller and believe me it doesn't stop me being a 'new, positive, partnering, lets-embrace-change-in-the-brave-new-world' bookseller, but I'm afraid I'm not currently a member of the BA having more things to spend my indie pounds on at the minute.
I can say I didn't know they had a 'never explain and never complain' policy though it could explain some things, but I did think I saw something at one point about the BA president saying something about high street bookshops needing support and to be seen as real partners in the selling of digital product.

Jean - since we realised we couldn't afford to be left behind, got websites for our shops and in this indies case set up affilliate links and promoted them in-shop, on social media and in the local newspaper to let people know they could still support their 'Local Indie Bookshop' even when shopping for ebooks or shopping on the internet, and without any loss to themselves but great gain to their local indie bookshop and other local indie businesses that do similar things!

you fail to see the bigger picture.

@jean austin: Yes, Indie bookstores do sell eBooks now from their websites.

Ah yes, so right, the big picture. Like the one in which physical booksellers have already had their own massive bites of seven Harry Potter cherries in millions of hardback and paperback sales with all the razzmatazz of midnight launch, unrepeatable media coverage, movie tie-insetc etc. All this before ebooks were a glint in Sony's or anyone else's eye. The point I'm making is that booksellers should choose their e-book battlegrounds with care; this is one they cannot win. It is the new titles and building the new authors where the important struggles have to take place if the physical bookseller is going to have any kind of visibility in retail in five years time. Authors, agents and publishers need to see physical booksellers as a viable and highly visible for e-book sales and marketing which is simply not the case at present.

I am wondering how this is going to effect public libraries. Libraries will not be able to offer the Harry Potter series on ebook for the public.

I love the fact that a spokesperson for J K Rowling refused to comment. As Paul Whitehouse used to say, "'Ardest job in the world, that!"
The most outrageous element here is not to do with e-books and the worthless table-tennisy claims and counter-claims being slung about by the usual suspects. It is a statement by some bloke from Waterstone's that "We always sought to add value for the fans when a new HP was released and their launch days have become the stuff of legends at Waterstone's." Where to begin? Well let's make it simple. In the lost world of chain bookselling, there was only ever one outfit which consistently and joyfully created the stuff of legends and that was OTTAKAR'S! Waterstone's has always thought that excitement at such times should register at or near the level of a vicar's tea party.In Didcot. Their dullness and lack of enterprise in the Potter years was awesome.Down with this sort of historical distortion.

Well done Mel - can always rely on you for comment! I'm now "just" a punter - and have to say that, thus far, have eschewed e-books, despite being tempted once or twice. Fact is, for me, paper and print still works - but the e-revolution is here to stay - and good for you for trying to get involved. However, the issue for me - as so often - is about how the trade as a whole work together (or not!). Authors, publishers, distributors, retailers, surely all benefit from co-operation and partnership.

We're on the verge of de-stocking Harry Potter books because their stock-turn does not justify the shelf space.

Pete,
No such thing as 'just a punter' as in the end it's the punters that really make the whole thing work, no punters no business of any type really ;-)
I totally agree with you - the key to this whole issue is collaboration, working together, and yes probably that does mean drawing up new ways to work together, new idea's of what the whole shebang means, and how we really see the trade existing and working as we move into the future - my greatest sadness in most of this is that discussion just really doesn't seem to be happening in any meaningful way and in the immortal words of a very old BT advert and a wonderful character Beattie - 'it's good to talk'! and given our business is words you wouldn't think it would be that hard really ;-)

It is interesting, we have just being doing book related talks at a local school during Independent Booksellers Week with classes visiting our shop to look at and discuss books. Potter was rather a non event in all this, when we mentioned the books and our midnight events it was more of a historical fact for these non-Potter generation children and they expressed more interest in other authors.

Why not? They can buy them, just as they can buy any other ebook.

I didn't think one could simply walk into a book store and buy an ebook. How would that even work? You pay 69p in change and they give you a USB stick?

I think she is selling exclusively through Pottermore so that giants like Amazon won't be able to sell the ebooks solely to Kindle users or Apple to iPad users etc. She is strong in her view that the books should be available over all formats and not exclude any readers.

They will be £9.99 each.

I'm all for that.

It's kind of funny that JK Rowling herself is taking the physical book out of the equation herself when physical books play a large role in the Harry Potter series themselves. And why cut off a huge customer base, that is, how many 9 year old kids have their own e-readers? H Potter books made great gifts you can really give an ebook.

@Yggdrasil. I was only referring to sales of ebooks.
I'm not saying that kids will stop reading Harry Potter, they're modern classics, really just remarking on the fact that she should have been doing this 5-10 yrs ago during Harry Potter mania. Most other authors have been doing this kind of things for years. But here's J.K Rowling and flunkies coming along in 2011 acting like they just invented the wheel by having what is essentially a nice looking interactive website that sells ebooks. Big whoop. It's not game changing. It's already being done. As I said kids ebook sales are relatively low for obvious reasons and that goes for Roald Dahl as well as J.K. Physical sales are still were it's at with kids books and so bricks and mortar bookstores are firmly still in the game.

Did you happen to notice the partnership is with Overdrive? Many libraries are now using it. http://www.overdrive.com/

This is Wiley/Amazon all over again. Where’s all the massive public outrage this time? Relieved to see a few others irked by Pottermore--thought it was just me. #evilrowling

Now here's how it might have been handled better:
The Bookseller: "Hello, we wondered how you feel about the Harry Potter books being published. Are you angry that it doesn't give physical booksellers a chance to sell the titles as e-books?"
This is where the media antenna should twitch. It's a leading question, inviting the retailer to slot neatly into the box marked 'whinging bookseller'. What the bookseller should have thought to him or herself was that in the new, positive,partnering, lets-embrace-change-in-the-brave-new-world business context outlined so eloquently at the BA conference, never explain and never complain. So even though the possible answers might have included 'whatever' or 'couldn't give a monkey's', the correct answer in fact is: "Nothing to say, Goodbye.".

Since when do physical bookstores sell digital books? Since when does legacy publishing do anything but demean ebooks and their authors?

@jean austin: Yes, Indie bookstores do sell eBooks now from their websites.

Ancient Mariner - yes we could have said nothing but at the end of the day making true statements is not whinging, it's comment!

Some of us were quite positive in what we did say along with the negative but truthful statements that it is quite sad that we seem to be losing the art of proper collaboration and support.
Some of us pointed out it's not just Potterverse and ebooks but things like sainsbury's and exclusive deals that show the wider problems and frustrations at heart here for high street based bookshops and especially indies.

Some of us said that though we regretted not being able to be part of this venture we could fully understand that selling direct in this way was to the benefit of the author and publisher and at a commercial level could fully understand and appreciate this, didn't necessarily totally agree with it due to the long term effects against short term gain but could honestly understand it ;-)

Some of us hope that this will re-invigorate the potter franchise again and that this will help at increasing physical book sales in shops of all types.

some of us spoke of the fact that ebook sales against physical sales isn't the b-all and end all that some think, some of us are ourselves ebook readers of longstanding and understand buying an ebook does not preclude buying the self same thing in physical format too, or indeed vice-versa - I think there are a good few ebook consumers like that out there and I would love to see a survey done to see what percentage of readers are like that and likely to continue to be like that.

Some of us spoke of how in fact some secondhand bookshops could do well from ebook releases including the Potter ones if, like is now happening in some shops in the States, people decide to offload some of their physical double ups once they have the ebook version instead so as to free up bookshelf space one hopes!

The truth is no comment does not address or change the situation at hand anymore than sometimes making comment does, but it is better to address a situation than ignore it and ust hope it gets better - even if that is at the risk as being seen as a whinging bookseller.

Personally I just see it as being an open and honest bookseller and believe me it doesn't stop me being a 'new, positive, partnering, lets-embrace-change-in-the-brave-new-world' bookseller, but I'm afraid I'm not currently a member of the BA having more things to spend my indie pounds on at the minute.
I can say I didn't know they had a 'never explain and never complain' policy though it could explain some things, but I did think I saw something at one point about the BA president saying something about high street bookshops needing support and to be seen as real partners in the selling of digital product.

Jean - since we realised we couldn't afford to be left behind, got websites for our shops and in this indies case set up affilliate links and promoted them in-shop, on social media and in the local newspaper to let people know they could still support their 'Local Indie Bookshop' even when shopping for ebooks or shopping on the internet, and without any loss to themselves but great gain to their local indie bookshop and other local indie businesses that do similar things!

Well done Mel - can always rely on you for comment! I'm now "just" a punter - and have to say that, thus far, have eschewed e-books, despite being tempted once or twice. Fact is, for me, paper and print still works - but the e-revolution is here to stay - and good for you for trying to get involved. However, the issue for me - as so often - is about how the trade as a whole work together (or not!). Authors, publishers, distributors, retailers, surely all benefit from co-operation and partnership.

Pete,
No such thing as 'just a punter' as in the end it's the punters that really make the whole thing work, no punters no business of any type really ;-)
I totally agree with you - the key to this whole issue is collaboration, working together, and yes probably that does mean drawing up new ways to work together, new idea's of what the whole shebang means, and how we really see the trade existing and working as we move into the future - my greatest sadness in most of this is that discussion just really doesn't seem to be happening in any meaningful way and in the immortal words of a very old BT advert and a wonderful character Beattie - 'it's good to talk'! and given our business is words you wouldn't think it would be that hard really ;-)

you fail to see the bigger picture.

Ah yes, so right, the big picture. Like the one in which physical booksellers have already had their own massive bites of seven Harry Potter cherries in millions of hardback and paperback sales with all the razzmatazz of midnight launch, unrepeatable media coverage, movie tie-insetc etc. All this before ebooks were a glint in Sony's or anyone else's eye. The point I'm making is that booksellers should choose their e-book battlegrounds with care; this is one they cannot win. It is the new titles and building the new authors where the important struggles have to take place if the physical bookseller is going to have any kind of visibility in retail in five years time. Authors, agents and publishers need to see physical booksellers as a viable and highly visible for e-book sales and marketing which is simply not the case at present.

I am wondering how this is going to effect public libraries. Libraries will not be able to offer the Harry Potter series on ebook for the public.

Why not? They can buy them, just as they can buy any other ebook.

Did you happen to notice the partnership is with Overdrive? Many libraries are now using it. http://www.overdrive.com/

I love the fact that a spokesperson for J K Rowling refused to comment. As Paul Whitehouse used to say, "'Ardest job in the world, that!"
The most outrageous element here is not to do with e-books and the worthless table-tennisy claims and counter-claims being slung about by the usual suspects. It is a statement by some bloke from Waterstone's that "We always sought to add value for the fans when a new HP was released and their launch days have become the stuff of legends at Waterstone's." Where to begin? Well let's make it simple. In the lost world of chain bookselling, there was only ever one outfit which consistently and joyfully created the stuff of legends and that was OTTAKAR'S! Waterstone's has always thought that excitement at such times should register at or near the level of a vicar's tea party.In Didcot. Their dullness and lack of enterprise in the Potter years was awesome.Down with this sort of historical distortion.

I was a kids person at Ottakars at the time of HPif the store near you didn't open at midnight I'm guessing they couldn't get enough staff to do it...and they must have been the only one!

ALL ottakars went mad for HP, we backed it way more than Ws - there is a rumour that during a Head office meeting someone slammed down a load of oictures from various Ottakars stores, their HP events and the Kids dept and said - what us going on?! whay aren't we like this?

oh look now the Ws kids depts are child friendly, entertaining, bright fun places to be...just like Ottakars

At least Pottermore isn't another HP book!! I may have a breakdown if she brings out another one!!

Yes, complete nonsense! One of the first things I requested when I was taken on as a bookseller was to be involved in the midnight launch and it was indeed the stuff of legend!

We're on the verge of de-stocking Harry Potter books because their stock-turn does not justify the shelf space.

They will be £9.99 each.

@Yggdrasil. I was only referring to sales of ebooks.
I'm not saying that kids will stop reading Harry Potter, they're modern classics, really just remarking on the fact that she should have been doing this 5-10 yrs ago during Harry Potter mania. Most other authors have been doing this kind of things for years. But here's J.K Rowling and flunkies coming along in 2011 acting like they just invented the wheel by having what is essentially a nice looking interactive website that sells ebooks. Big whoop. It's not game changing. It's already being done. As I said kids ebook sales are relatively low for obvious reasons and that goes for Roald Dahl as well as J.K. Physical sales are still were it's at with kids books and so bricks and mortar bookstores are firmly still in the game.

@WillGranger1 She stole my idea! Just kidding, but... More on that later. I agree that other authors have been doing similar things for years. The good thing for those of us who have been trying is that Rowling will inject a new level of legitimacy into ebooks and encourage authors to create websites that add to the overall reading experience. This is a sign of how publishing is changing.

Regarding how she stole my idea, I have been creating new material for my blog in an effort to add to my books. Please check it out: http://anabarseries.blogspot.com/ It sounds like Rowling is going to be dong something similar. I can only hope that the excitement generated towards Pottermore might encourage more readers to take a look at my site.

I agree with you about the limited extent of the consequences given Rowling's late timing but can't help but be mad on principle at those in publishing or elsewhere who favor exclusivity and restrict competition.

It is interesting, we have just being doing book related talks at a local school during Independent Booksellers Week with classes visiting our shop to look at and discuss books. Potter was rather a non event in all this, when we mentioned the books and our midnight events it was more of a historical fact for these non-Potter generation children and they expressed more interest in other authors.

I didn't think one could simply walk into a book store and buy an ebook. How would that even work? You pay 69p in change and they give you a USB stick?

I think she is selling exclusively through Pottermore so that giants like Amazon won't be able to sell the ebooks solely to Kindle users or Apple to iPad users etc. She is strong in her view that the books should be available over all formats and not exclude any readers.

I'm all for that.

It's kind of funny that JK Rowling herself is taking the physical book out of the equation herself when physical books play a large role in the Harry Potter series themselves. And why cut off a huge customer base, that is, how many 9 year old kids have their own e-readers? H Potter books made great gifts you can really give an ebook.

This is Wiley/Amazon all over again. Where’s all the massive public outrage this time? Relieved to see a few others irked by Pottermore--thought it was just me. #evilrowling

I see the whole pottermore thing as JK trying to keep herself in the media in a bid not to be forgotten, had the bookseller asked me it would have been met with "Meh"
It's nothing new, or that interesting.

The woman was smart enough to retain e-rights fifteen years ago, when publishers barely had e-mail accounts (and I do not exaggerate, having worked in the book business at the time). She's given everyone a decade and a half to make a bundle on the Potterverse. Why would she sign away her e-rights now? It would make no sense at all. You go, girl.

Harry Frankenstein rules. I used to think that Rowling, though short on talent, was genuine and non-materialistic. Now she seems to have become the creature of her own monster.

Oh for heaven's sake. Short on talent? She's written the most successful books of modern times.

For you booksellers: Pottermore is the sideshow and one you won't get right now. The main event is Ebooks. Now is your opportunity to shine by promoting Ebooks of other authors and new authors. Making your physical and your internet stores the cutting edge for new readers who will buy Ebooks. Lokk to the futrue the past is behind you.

That is where you want to be not complaining about Harry Pottermore.