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J.K. Rowling to sell Harry Potter e-books directly through interactive fan site

In the lead-up to today’s much anticipated announcement from J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter fans had been told not to expect a new novel in the series, but that didn’t stop fevered speculation otherwise. While those still holding out hope for an eighth Harry Potter instalment may have been disappointed by today’s revelation, Rowling’s plans to launch a website containing troves of previously unpublished material are sure to have others salivating.

Most fans will have to wait until October 1 to access Pottermore, an interactive website containing 18,000 words of new material delving into the minutiae of the Harry Potter universe, but the first million users who register on July 31 – Harry Potter’s birthday – are being promised early access. At a press conference this morning in London, Rowling said the website will also include social media elements, allowing users to interact with each other. As quoted in the Guardian:

“I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new generation,” Rowling revealed. “I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have. Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment. Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.”

The publishing world will no doubt closely monitor Rowling’s success in adapting the Harry Potter universe to the largely untested (save for certain examples) medium of the Web. Even more significant is the decision to begin selling e-books of the novels, which so far exist only in print, directly through the website (with technical support by e-book vendor OverDrive), bypassing established retailers. The digital editions will appear in ePub (meaning they will be compatible with all e-readers), with Rowling’s U.K. and U.S. publishers – Bloomsbury and Scholastic, respectively – receiving a cut. From the Guardian:

“It means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience,” said Rowling, of her decision to go it alone. “[I am] lucky to have the resources to do it myself and am therefore able to do it right. It’s a fantastic and unique experience which I could afford in every sense. There was really no other way to do it.”

Until recently Rowling had been reluctant to release the Potter novels as e-books, but she said that after downloading and reading an e-book for the first time she had a change of heart.

“It is my view that you can’t hold back progress. E-books are here to stay. Personally I love print and paper [but] very very recently for the first time I downloaded an e-book and it is miraculous, for travel and for children. So I feel great about taking Harry potter into this new medium,” Rowling said.

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