Open letter to J.K. Rowling
October 23, 2010 | 4:30 pm
This letter is also being sent by snailmail to J.K. Rowling’s agents, the Christopher Little Literary Agency.
Dear Ms. Rowling:
For several years, you have adamantly refused to make e-book editions of your Harry Potter series available, citing concerns over promoting piracy. In May, The Bookseller reported that you were considering releasing the Harry Potter novels in e-book form. However, it is now October, and we have heard no further word as to when or if these e-books will be coming out.
I am writing to ask that you release these official e-books, as soon as you possibly can.
To begin with, your prior reluctance to license Harry Potter e-books has not resulted in any reduction in piracy of these books. Indeed, each time a new book in the series was published, a fully scanned e-book edition of it was on BitTorrent within hours.
Indeed, at the moment, if I enter “‘Harry Potter’ e-book torrent” into Google, it returns 690,000 results, in a variety of e-book reader formats. I have little doubt that by now that if I were to download one of these at random, I would find it had been proofed and polished sufficiently to compare favorably to professional quality. One of these in particular claims to be “reference quality”, with “exact layout and page sizes” and “every word on every line”.
Try as you might, you will never eradicate these illegitimate e-books from the Internet. What you should be thinking about doing is supplementing them with authorized versions that would earn you some money, and divert at least some of these e-books’ popularity to legitimate ends.
Over the last few years, e-book reader devices and applications have gained a considerable following—most notably Amazon’s Kindle, which is now being sold in the UK as well as the USA. Millions of people have these devices, and I have little doubt that at least tens and probably hundreds of thousands of them are Harry Potter fans who want to be able to read their favorite books on their favorite devices. (Given how thick your books got by the middle of the series, it is easy to see why they would want to be able to put them on a pocket-sized electronic device!)
These are people who would like to pay you money to be able to read your books electronically. But at the moment, they have no way to do that, so many of them resort to piracy. Perhaps having already purchased your books in paper format, they feel entitled. And all it takes is a few seconds of searching, a minute or so of downloading, and they can have these books right away in the format of their desire.
Many of these downloaders would be delighted to pay you again for an official e-book version of these works. (True, some wouldn’t, but those people would never have paid you no matter what you did.) Indeed, as long as you do not have official Harry Potter e-books available, you will be giving downloaders a reason to feel validated in their decision.
You may be concerned that pirates could crack the DRM on the e-books and add them to the torrents of piracy. And it is true, they certainly could do that. But on the other hand, given the hundreds of thousands of hits that Harry Potter e-book torrents already have, it is hard to see how this could do any further damage. And at least this way some of those e-book readers would be paying you for the experience.
Granted, you are well-off enough that the money is almost certainly of minimal concern to you now. But consider that by refusing to make legitimate versions available, you are driving people who would otherwise be legitimate e-book purchasers to enter the pirate world to get electronic copies of your book.
If you really are opposed to e-book piracy, please commemorate the opening of the newest Harry Potter movie by taking away these readers’ excuse to pirate your books. Make them available for legitimate purchase. Any possible harm would be more than offset by the benefits, and your fans (including myself) would be thrilled.
I hope you (or one of your agents) will reply in a form that I can repost to my e-book blog, TeleRead.org. Either way, I hope you will consider taking the steps I have recommended.
Thank you for your time.
Christopher E. Meadows