News

Pottermore defends selling e-books directly

Pottermore has responded to retailers' frustrations over being unable to sell the Harry Potter e-books, saying the idea was to "ensure ease of availability across all reading devices".

Retailers hit out at J K Rowling's decision to sell the Harry Potter e-books directly through her Pottermore website, which will launch in October. A Pottermore spokesperson said: "Pottermore is designed to encourage the reading and re-reading of the Harry Potter books in all formats and editions, both print and digital, to both existing and new generations of readers. We think this will have a positive effect on those selling physical books as well as on sales of digital ones."

He added: "The decision to make e-books exclusive to the site was to ensure ease of availability across all reading devices and to the widest possible audience and also to support the ultimate intention of the site to be an online reading experience.”

Among the retailers who attacked the Pottermore plans was Waterstone's. A spokesman for the chain said last week: "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."

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Julian,

Have you forgotten that the Harry Potter books are already available in print?

Do you not realise that the e-books that are being released are just digital versions of these print books?

I find it funny that booksellers are complaining that they can't sell these e-books, when most don't have the capacity to do so (and up to now had little interest in doing so).

Dave

Julian, perhaps I missed this, but are they going to stop printing Harry Potter books? If not, what does your comment mean?

I'm keen to know the RRP of the e-book if there is just one source, for a high demand book, will they discount and sell cheap for volume or will they protect value and push for higher price? The industry is watching.

Yes I goofed sorry . ...

did retailers really hit out against Pottermore - I got the impression that no one really cared!

I haven't been inundated in my shop by 8 year olds demanding HP for years...I mentioned to a kid the other day about Pottermore..they looked at me blankly and they had never heard of it!

Surely it is the publisher and not the booksellers who has effectively paid for all the publicity and helped to make the books widely known and to become popular. The booksellers have simply taken the largest share of the revenue. It is also the publisher who has paid for editing and other preparation costs. So, in whatever format the books are sold, the way this is done should be an agreement between the author and the publisher.

It is a sound business decision for the author and/or publisher of such a popular series to sell books directly rather than via retailers but it is insulting to readers' and booksellers' intelligence to use 'ease of availability' as a euphemism for 'we keep all the profits'.

hopefully they will set a sales price where they make a margin and sell at it. stick to it.
unlike the silly print versions of books where the publishers sell their souls.

take the costs add margin, theirs my price?? retailer - buy items add costs add margin- theres my price !!

not the silly working backwards we do that uneavens the field

I think it's a great shame that the bookshops which loyally supported the print versions, especially the small independents who could not compete with the supermarkets' special offers but still stocked the books, have been left out of the Harry Potter eBook market. Fair enough to want to set a price and stick to it but it's never a good idea to cut out those who supported you on the way up, especially as many shops opened at midnight and held special Harry Potter events so added to the enjoyment of the books.

I like Waterstone's taking credit for making the Harry Potter series successful...

It is still to be seen if there will be any regional sales restrictions, but I would imagine not. That is what I would call "ease of availability". If you haven't tried to a buy a book from an online retailer just to find that that retailer can't sell that particular book to you because of where you live, then you're not really into ebooks.

It is still to be seen if there will be any regional sales restrictions, but I would imagine not. That is what I would call "ease of availability". If you haven't tried to a buy a book from an online retailer just to find that that retailer can't sell that particular book to you because of where you live, then you're not really into ebooks.

Where is the BookScan wizzard? How many copies of Harry Potter books were sold last week?

eBooks are about the author and reader getting a far better financial deal. The two losers are traditional publishers and bookstores. Nothing Pottermore does will change those trends other than accelerate them as a leader in the book trade.

Simply is both a publisher and author, much as many presses are in the reference and text book area, where they make lots more money than in traditional trade. eBooka are the sweet spot for readers, based on price--and the ability to update anything in less than a week at virtually no cost, and the authors themselves.

This is no different than what has happened to other retailers such as Staples in the office market and Circuit City and a host of others in the electronic space.

In the US the book chains are virtually gone and indies suffering. BN has bet its future on the Nook.

These megatrends seem unstoppable until another comes along. As Warren Buffett said, "In a serious situation one is usually better off manning the lifeboats than repairing the ship."

The bookstore industry seems to be there now.

I would like to know how much profit the book stores have already made from the Harry Potter books.

I truly feel for the plight of the B&M book stores but they need to re focus their business approach rather than lash out at everything they feel is an affront to their business.

I love the Potter books and am grateful they were printed in the first place.

If you want to advertise you should pay like anyone else.

Martin, traditional B&M bookstores made very little profit out of HP. Each book was an exercise in customer retention because Bloomsbury would sell copies to anyone who wanted them, and supermarkets used the book as a promotional tool to get customers to visit their stores and purchase other profitable stuff. They could afford to loss-lead. Booksellers couldn't, so we made hardly anything from the books.
In many ways, HP did more damage to the traditional B&M bookshops in the UK than good, simply because of the numbers being sold, and supermarkets wanted in. The shame was the publisher (how many other titles published by Bloomsbury do supermarkets sell?? - this was the argument used) allowed their product to be devalued by these sellers. And damaged the book trade as a result. And sell no more to supermarkets than pre-HP.

Well said Ali - it's the author who creates the book, then, as in the case of JK R has to put up with the near impossibility of getting published, begging at publishers' and agents' doors, but hey, when they get famous suddenly everyone want not just their pound of flesh, but almost all of the beast.

JK is having none of it. I hope this will teach the profiteers, margin addicts and 'pile-'em-high' managers a lesson.

But surely this is also the fault of the B&M bookstore for not realising the problem and addressing it via greater discounts or co-op agreements.
I doubt that Bloomsbury would alienate a large portion of their front facing book sales but not addressing the issue of their RRP being lower than expected to maintain a reasonable profit margin on that title. I guess this goes for every title that falls into this catagory, I can think of a half dozen cooking books which fall into this catagory.

I understand a lot of the problems facing B&M bookstores and it depresses me because I enjoy a good book shop as much as the next person.

I know alot of children (and adults) who have read the Potter books but very little else.
I'm not 100% convinced on how good it's been for the industry or booksellers on the whole...

We did realise the problem, but there was no help from the Publisher; further discounts were not available, co-op agreements or not, and in any case the supermarkets would have still been able to sell at a cheaper price than the traditional trade. I actually bought stock from Sainsbury's because they were cheaper than Bloomsbury or wholesale.
Bloomsbury would not have alienated anyone - how many other Bloomsbury books are in supermarkets? - they could have said thanks, but no thanks to Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's but took the king's shilling. Half a dozen general cooking books make no difference to the trade, but HP most certainly did.

Julian,

Have you forgotten that the Harry Potter books are already available in print?

Do you not realise that the e-books that are being released are just digital versions of these print books?

I find it funny that booksellers are complaining that they can't sell these e-books, when most don't have the capacity to do so (and up to now had little interest in doing so).

Dave

Julian, perhaps I missed this, but are they going to stop printing Harry Potter books? If not, what does your comment mean?

How about the fact that "most" books are not available in large font format, and some people can't use audio books (like myself) so the only option is ebook where the font size can be increased enough for those who are legally blind can actually read. I think ebooks are fantastic, because before them, I was unable to read. I have not read a book in over 5 years, now I can. So ya, I know what a device called a book is, do you know what it is like to not to be able to read at all? That 5% is very grateful for ebooks, believe me.

I'm keen to know the RRP of the e-book if there is just one source, for a high demand book, will they discount and sell cheap for volume or will they protect value and push for higher price? The industry is watching.

hopefully they will set a sales price where they make a margin and sell at it. stick to it.
unlike the silly print versions of books where the publishers sell their souls.

take the costs add margin, theirs my price?? retailer - buy items add costs add margin- theres my price !!

not the silly working backwards we do that uneavens the field

Yes I goofed sorry . ...

Well done for admitting it! Very rare on the Internet.

Well done for admitting it! Very rare on the Internet.

Well done for admitting it! Very rare on the Internet.

did retailers really hit out against Pottermore - I got the impression that no one really cared!

I haven't been inundated in my shop by 8 year olds demanding HP for years...I mentioned to a kid the other day about Pottermore..they looked at me blankly and they had never heard of it!

Surely it is the publisher and not the booksellers who has effectively paid for all the publicity and helped to make the books widely known and to become popular. The booksellers have simply taken the largest share of the revenue. It is also the publisher who has paid for editing and other preparation costs. So, in whatever format the books are sold, the way this is done should be an agreement between the author and the publisher.

It is a sound business decision for the author and/or publisher of such a popular series to sell books directly rather than via retailers but it is insulting to readers' and booksellers' intelligence to use 'ease of availability' as a euphemism for 'we keep all the profits'.

It is still to be seen if there will be any regional sales restrictions, but I would imagine not. That is what I would call "ease of availability". If you haven't tried to a buy a book from an online retailer just to find that that retailer can't sell that particular book to you because of where you live, then you're not really into ebooks.

It is still to be seen if there will be any regional sales restrictions, but I would imagine not. That is what I would call "ease of availability". If you haven't tried to a buy a book from an online retailer just to find that that retailer can't sell that particular book to you because of where you live, then you're not really into ebooks.

Well said Ali - it's the author who creates the book, then, as in the case of JK R has to put up with the near impossibility of getting published, begging at publishers' and agents' doors, but hey, when they get famous suddenly everyone want not just their pound of flesh, but almost all of the beast.

JK is having none of it. I hope this will teach the profiteers, margin addicts and 'pile-'em-high' managers a lesson.

To say that booksellers took the largest part of the profit for HP is ridiculous, and not true.

Most stores sold the books at cost when the new releases came out. When you factor in staying open VERY late to host midnight parties, paying the entire staff to entertain the crowds at the parties, and paying for materials to entertain said crowd, the stores could hope to break even at best.

It's sad to see so many anti-bookstore and anti-bookseller comments here. Especially seeing so many uniformed opinions.

I think it's a great shame that the bookshops which loyally supported the print versions, especially the small independents who could not compete with the supermarkets' special offers but still stocked the books, have been left out of the Harry Potter eBook market. Fair enough to want to set a price and stick to it but it's never a good idea to cut out those who supported you on the way up, especially as many shops opened at midnight and held special Harry Potter events so added to the enjoyment of the books.

I like Waterstone's taking credit for making the Harry Potter series successful...

Where is the BookScan wizzard? How many copies of Harry Potter books were sold last week?

eBooks are about the author and reader getting a far better financial deal. The two losers are traditional publishers and bookstores. Nothing Pottermore does will change those trends other than accelerate them as a leader in the book trade.

Simply is both a publisher and author, much as many presses are in the reference and text book area, where they make lots more money than in traditional trade. eBooka are the sweet spot for readers, based on price--and the ability to update anything in less than a week at virtually no cost, and the authors themselves.

This is no different than what has happened to other retailers such as Staples in the office market and Circuit City and a host of others in the electronic space.

In the US the book chains are virtually gone and indies suffering. BN has bet its future on the Nook.

These megatrends seem unstoppable until another comes along. As Warren Buffett said, "In a serious situation one is usually better off manning the lifeboats than repairing the ship."

The bookstore industry seems to be there now.

If you want to advertise you should pay like anyone else.

I would like to know how much profit the book stores have already made from the Harry Potter books.

I truly feel for the plight of the B&M book stores but they need to re focus their business approach rather than lash out at everything they feel is an affront to their business.

I love the Potter books and am grateful they were printed in the first place.

Martin, traditional B&M bookstores made very little profit out of HP. Each book was an exercise in customer retention because Bloomsbury would sell copies to anyone who wanted them, and supermarkets used the book as a promotional tool to get customers to visit their stores and purchase other profitable stuff. They could afford to loss-lead. Booksellers couldn't, so we made hardly anything from the books.
In many ways, HP did more damage to the traditional B&M bookshops in the UK than good, simply because of the numbers being sold, and supermarkets wanted in. The shame was the publisher (how many other titles published by Bloomsbury do supermarkets sell?? - this was the argument used) allowed their product to be devalued by these sellers. And damaged the book trade as a result. And sell no more to supermarkets than pre-HP.

But surely this is also the fault of the B&M bookstore for not realising the problem and addressing it via greater discounts or co-op agreements.
I doubt that Bloomsbury would alienate a large portion of their front facing book sales but not addressing the issue of their RRP being lower than expected to maintain a reasonable profit margin on that title. I guess this goes for every title that falls into this catagory, I can think of a half dozen cooking books which fall into this catagory.

I understand a lot of the problems facing B&M bookstores and it depresses me because I enjoy a good book shop as much as the next person.

We did realise the problem, but there was no help from the Publisher; further discounts were not available, co-op agreements or not, and in any case the supermarkets would have still been able to sell at a cheaper price than the traditional trade. I actually bought stock from Sainsbury's because they were cheaper than Bloomsbury or wholesale.
Bloomsbury would not have alienated anyone - how many other Bloomsbury books are in supermarkets? - they could have said thanks, but no thanks to Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's but took the king's shilling. Half a dozen general cooking books make no difference to the trade, but HP most certainly did.

I know alot of children (and adults) who have read the Potter books but very little else.
I'm not 100% convinced on how good it's been for the industry or booksellers on the whole...

... or for the children that have read little else.

While the booksellers' frustration is understandable, let's not kid ourselves here: Mrs. Rowling has no obligation to sell these e-editions through them. Did the various retailers push "Harry Potter"? They sure did, -- but it's not like they did it as a favor to Mrs. Rowling or as a service to the kids. They did it because it helped boost sales. And that's okay. It's a business. Now Mrs. Rowling has determind that, from a business standpoint, it makes sense for her to be her own publishers for the electronic versions of her books. That's her call to make.

I think it's disingenuous to say the HP books will only be available online in order to promote access across ebook platforms. Really? I purchase ebooks when available through independent stores with a Google books portal. They are DRM free and can be used on any platform. I think it's about making money.

The HP eBooks will only be available online. The print versions will still be available via brick and mortar stores.

Honestly, I don't see how the B&Ms could sell the eBooks more effectively than a direct sale from their website. You don't have to pay anyone else. It's straightforward and convenient for everyone.

Right now the B&Ms (as well as most big publishers) are trying to stay afloat with their centuries-old business model, which is ridiculous. I love brick and mortar stores, but they're killing themselves by not changing the way they work. If the trade publishing industry doesn't change soon there won't be a trade publishing industry.

Ms. Rowling has every right to make her books available however she wants. What I don't understand is why everyone is lambasting her for excercising that right, instead of visiting her site and buying from her directly. Is everyone too lazy to switch from the big box retailer sites to a private independent site? What is the harm?

I sell my ebooks from my own site and other major retailers. But that is my choice. I think she is right in wanting to make the ebooks available because at the prices everyone expects to pay for an ebook, she has to sell ten times more than any print book commands, and maybe she knows somthing about the publishing and marketing process you lot don't.

'The CHILDREN of THE DRAGON SF/Vampire Fusion Series: a chronicle of the Xosan, living vampires from the planet Antellus who were once human but were transformed by a dragon's blood.'

Egads... and to think people complain about gatekeepers.

Your point being? Have you actually read one of my books? Maybe if you climbed off that high horse of yours, you would see that like JK Rowling I decided to write something with some real imagination. As opposed to, say, Sarah Whatsherface? The fact is that many authors have to beg, scrape and borrow to make their dreams come true, and I cannot imagine what you were thinking when you said that. Gatekeepers?
Really? In the real literary world there are no such things. In this modern digital world they are dinosaurs if they can't keep up.

I just bought Destiny's Forge (using five mouse clicks) and look forward to discovering a new SF universe. It seems internet arguments can be conducive to sales, too! =)

Thanks very much for your patronage! You won't be disappointed. :)

The details are still uncertain, but the plan seems to be to help readers avoid 'lock-in.' If these ebooks were sold through Amazon, they'd be in the mobi format and those with a Nook (or who later get a Nook) couldn't read them. If they were sold through B&N, they'd be in ePub and those with Kindles (or who later buy one) couldn't read them.

What J. K. Rowlings seems to be offering is a plan that lets her fans buy Harry Potter books once and use them on any ereader platform they own now or may own in the future. Buy once, use many.

And if that's what she's offering, online stores with lock-in formatting, including Amazon, Apple and B&N have no grounds for complaining. She's doing what they aren't doing but should be doing. Amazon in particular needs to add ePub to Kindles.

You can use a book from Barnes and Noble on any device that will support the epub format, this also means that buying from other sources(except Amazon) is also possible with the NOOK. This format is used by the majority of ereaders and ebook sellers(Google, Borders, Kobo, Sony,ect.). The big defector is Amazon who has decided to try to seperate themselves and thus does not support the epub format, but instead as you mentioned uses the mobi format.

Most ePub readers cannot read B&N ePubs because of the DRM. For example, neither Sony nor Kobo readers can open a B&N ebook.

I love the comments from people that while they love a B&M store as much as the next person, that B&M companies need to change the way they do business or die. What exactly do you want them to do? They can't beat online merchants like Amazon on price because these stores are manned with actual humans that required paychecks. If we all love B&M stores so much then maybe we should show the love by being willing to pay a higher price for the opportunity of actually being able to browse a physical product.

In the case of the Harry Potter books, the bottom line is that she wants to be able to profit as much as possible. If she was really concerned about offering every type of e-book format then she would offer the books through each merchant that sells books in the e-book format.

Greed. It seems to me that every other 'publsher' can figure out how to sell ebooks fairly to the various devices. Rowling and her new cronies just want more money.

How much money is enough?

Er, no, isn't this called exploitation of copyright, which every author, successful or otherwise, wants to do?

Greed. It seems to me that every other 'publsher' can figure out how to sell ebooks fairly to the various devices. Rowling and her new cronies just want more money.

How much money is enough?

Basically, we should just nationalise JK Rowling now and make her write for free. She's rich enough. We could set up a Potter Politburo to decide how much of her money she's allowed to keep.

I heard about this cool thing called the internet where you can bypass retailers, keep all your royalties, specify your own distribution technologies, manage your own rights and sell your work directly to your fans and readers at almost no cost to you.

The alternative is to stay loyal to all those bookstores who took 50% of the cover price on physical books and earned more per book than you did as the writer.

The alternative is to give 30% or more to e-retailers who incur no risk, who dedicate no shelf space to your work, and who force you to adapt your work to their proprietary and often limited technologies.

If was J.K. Rowling and had her fame and fan base, I'd self-publish my next book through my own publishing company, cut out the middlemen entirely, sell direct and engage only those retailers who agreed to MY terms.

Funny, 50% the only places that got 50% or more off the RRP certainly did not and do not sell at full RRP. and so dis not and do not make 50% of each book.
once we retailers do buy the book (usually at around 35% below the rrp) this nis then called GROSS profit. we then have costs involved in running said retail space. wages, eleccy, water, phone, internet. blah blah. the final amount left NET PROFIT. isnt very much indeed.
hence there are far fewer now than there was before, and even the bigger ones of us are struggling away to make ends meet.

you are correct though in part, in your final paragraph, but as per publisher. "sell the book to whom you wish and who agrees YOUR TERMS. its your commodity after all.

Notice that if a big six publisher decides to do the same thing we would applaud, while if an author does it we scream. What hypocrisy. Greed is good as long as you have the clout to make it so, not when it is likely to grant the author his or her well being in order to write the next book or series? Who decides this? I for one applaud any author who has the hutzpah to strike out on their own and bend the status quo. Now, if only I could find a politician I could applaud as well. Not likely to happen soon.

As an indie bookseller I see this as quite a positive development. It's a sign that an author is willing to stand-up for the value (financial and creative) of her books in a marketplace hell-bent on devaluing it for the sake of loss-leading.

As other posts indicate the supermarkets sold the latter HP books at below cost price leading to very little being made by the booktrade, whether indie or chain. All subsequent releases were totally devalued and any spin-off booktrade benefit all but evaporated.

At least this way Team Rowling can exercise some sensible control over marketing, distribution and pricing, and seek to add value within a creative context controlled by the creator of the books. If a new generation of children are going to discover HP, potentially on eDevices then I'd rather that they did it in an environment with some creative direction than the online equivalent of a faceless corporate warehouse.

Connecting authors and readers via brilliant and intriguing books has always been why indie booksellers do what they do. This approach will help that far more than hinder.

I think you've made a great point Matthew, and this is what I feel as well. I'm surprised no-one has made any comments on what a complete whack in the face this is to Amazon, and their intention to lock everyone else out. Amazon are remaining very quiet, basically because they prefer to put the frighteners on publishers who won't play ball, but - they can't do this with Rowling: too big, too popular. What are they going to do: remove the buy-now button from Rowlings book? That's been a satisfying thing to see. This does seem to be another writing-on-the-wall moment for Waterstone's though, and I can understand their panic and anger.

I do think this has the potential to be a gamechanger as far as children + eBooks is concerned though, and that is worrying me. It has the potential to be a 'Dire Straits' moment and I've seen plenty of older kids borrowing iPads / Kindles off Mum and Dad recently...

Our strategy, for what it's worth, is to continue to discover and champion new books and new authors. If some of the older indies think back, isn't that what you did when Potter first came out, and wasn't it great to be part of that? Let's go find the next Rowling, and in the meantime celebrate JK as the British Institution she invariably is.

How, exactly, would a brick and mortar store be able to even capitalize on a freakin' e-book?

Waterstone's complaint is moot.

How dare that JK Rowling do such a dasterdly thing. To actually sell the HP Ebooks, titles she wrote and owns and to actually sell these Ebooks on a website? Her very own website, at that.

Somethings rotten in Denmark and that is sure. This is an outrage!

Yet, I wonder...just how would these complaining bookstores sell Ebooks? I don't think they are equipped for that. How would it work?

Waterstones sell ebooks through Waterstones.com. They're peeved that they won't get a chance to sell Potter ebooks that way.