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Posted by Kate, June 23, 2011

J K Rowling reveals Pottermore today

J K Rowling reveals the new Pottermore site today.

There’s been a fair bit of speculation as to what the site will be, with at the time of writing, many thinking it’s there to announce new book, judging by the mashable.com vote. There’s been excitement too, over some images, supposedly leaked from the website, which suggest it’s an online game or a fansite.

A key question might be who has what rights… and what rights are left to exploit? This is a J K Rowling announcement and property, not one from her publishers or from Warner Bros.

Sadly, at the time of writing (an hour or so before the announcement), I don’t know what Pottermore is, so I can’t tell you, but as we (well, I don’t know about you, but I’ll be going) anticipate the release of the final film in the Harry Potter sequence, it’s good to have this reminder of the author behind this extraordinary brand. I rather liked this timeline of the rise of Potter.

The picture above is of young women who’d grown up with the Harry Potter books with their copies at the Scholastic street party in NY in 2007 for the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic publishes the books in the US, and Bloomsbury does so in the UK). It was taken within hours after the of the release of the book, but these readers had only just got to the front of the queue to get their copies. I was Group MD of Scholastic UK at the time, and lucky enough to be there. It was a very happy experience to be at a book event that drew so many people and created such palpable excitement.

Since Harry Potter, widely described as the exception that proved the rule that children were not excited about reading and that the book industry was in dire straits, we have, of course, seen another – very different – phenomenon emerge from the world of children’s and YA writing: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight sequence.

Whether these are just two black swans remarkably close together or indicative of the ability of creators – and, I would hope, publishers – to make, shape and present children’s and YA reading experiences that surprise and delight children and teenagers (and adults too) and to do so more than twice remains to be seen.

I look forward to the next phenomenon.

QUICK UPDATE:

Well, we know what Pottermore is now. It is, essentially, a shop for digital content.

The site will be the only source of digital book versions of the seven Harry Potter titles and this is interesting in relation to her publishers and eBookselling, as it appears to establish some unusual precedents, as The Bookseller outlines here)

There’ll be audio downloads too.

There’s 18,000 new words by J K Rowling (not a huge amount, really, given that Philosopher’s stone is 77,000 words long) but perhaps there’s more to come.

There’ll be talking head video of J K Rowling.

There will be, it seems, opportunities for fans to post their own content.

This Wired article and this Guardian article give some more information, and this “Futurebook article” is more reflective: http://futurebook.net/content/pottermore-worlds-biggest-enhanced-e-book. The Bookseller reports on this UK retailer response too.

On the question of the relationship with publishers, The Bookseller spoke Pottermore c.e.o Rod Henwood. Henwood who said: “ are partners in this. You will see their presence prominent in the shop when it is launched, and they are involved in marketing the site. It is a very collaborative project, all contributing to the marketing and the activity. Their interests are aligned with ours.” He added: “We won’t sell physical books directly, certainly not on the site, but we will be providing links to publishers websites and if they sell the books there, people can obviously buy them.”