JK Rowling to release ebooks without publisher

There’s a big announcement from Harry Potter author JK Rowling today and quite honestly the scope of everything she’s doing is pretty big. On the surface, she’s building an online community called Pottermore that will feature an online store and other interactive features that have been described as “illustrated environments” and not games. One of the big announcements is that she’s going to be releasing ebooks through Pottermore direct to her fans without going through a publisher. She has reportedly seven fantasy books along with an extensive repository of notes detailing the Harry Potter universe. According to Wired.com Rowling holds the digital rights to her creations (print rights held by Bloomsbury and Scholastic). Wired writes that a normal royalty for print books is about 10 percent per print book sale, 20-40 percent for ebooks upwards of 70% if published through Amazon. By offering her ebooks directly to her fans that percent goes close to 100%.

More details:

Slate live-blogs the announcement

Electronic Harry Potter books? JK Rowling just ruined Amazon’s day

Why JK Rowling’s Pottermore will frighten struggling authors – and remember, she used to be one

For publishers, there’s something that’s just as terrifying as Voldemort: losing the ability to sell the eBooks of a bestselling author. If it ever happened, and if it spread, it’d have a cataclysmic effect on their long-term prospects. In effect, it’s That-Which-Must-Not-Happen.

But today, it just happened. JK Rowling’s announcement of Pottermore.com, a social network for Harry Potter readers with game-like elements, also revealed that for the first time, Harry Potter will be available as eBooks. Not only that, but the books will be sold directly through Pottermore, without the aid of Amazon, Apple, or any other publisher or retailer.

Despite Adrian Hon’s negative assessment of the impact this will have on pubishing, I find it interesting that Scholastic released a press release stating they’re part of this project – specifically to help channel sales via Pottermore. Not sure how they as a print interest partner is going to gain from driving people to the website where the ebooks are available and presumably decrease print purchases.

Scholastic is proud to be a key partner in the Pottermore project, including connecting teachers and parents from our school and online channels directly to ebook sales via Pottermore and providing marketing and promotion support.

Lastly – what does this all have to do with cartoonists? First, this proves a couple of things. It’s important to establish yourself online and interacting with your fans. If you have the means start building a community that will attract fans. Secondly, retain as many of your creative rights as possible. Because Rowling kept the digital rights, she’s now able to keep a much much much larger piece of the profits as well as have control to use her creation as she wants.

11 thoughts on “JK Rowling to release ebooks without publisher

  1. What I’m curious about is how she intends to protect the digital copies from being “shared” between rabid fans. Or is this exactly what she’s hoping for?

  2. From the Wired article mentioned above …

    In a further bold move, Rowling has opted to keep the e-books DRM-free, meaning that they are not locked into one device or platform. She is instead opting for digital watermarking that links the identify of the purchaser to the copy of the e-book. This doesn?t prevent copyright theft but does ensure that any copies will be traceable to a particular user. This is similar to how iTunes is DRM-free, but embeds user account information within each file purchased.

    Far from “traceable.” All it will take is ONE anonymous purchaser to use a prepaid credit card.

    Good luck, Madame Rowling.

  3. @Mike – I tend to agree with JK’s strategy. There will absolutely be pirating, but I think Apple has shown with the iTunes music store that if there is a legitimate way to purchase a product most people will.

    I’m probably overly naive, but I believe most of humanity is honest.

  4. And If most of humanity isn’t I would say that at least rabid fans are honest, that is, being fans of a work or the work’s creator, most would want to pay for the product out of respect for what they love.

  5. I think keeping prices low helps keep fans honest. And, if you aren’t paying an army of production costs and other intermediate expense items, your fans will know whether you’re dealing off the top of the deck when they see that your price for an on-line product is below the price for the same thing in hard form.

    I also think it helps if you can build up the number of fervent fans Rowling has, waiting to purchase the sweepings from the cutting room floor.

  6. I thought the Calvin and Hobbes type lettering might be copyrighted in some way?

  7. Jim, what are you on about? Calvin and Hobbes’s logo looks nothing like The Nightmare Before Christmas Logo. Google them both and then compare each one to the Pottermore Logo.

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