First, the Harry Potter brand still carries a great deal of muscle, but not enough to get Apple to change its terms. According to Charlie Redmayne, chief executive, the company has done some “groundbreaking deals” with Sony, Google, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, whereby the e-books will be featured on their sites, but the customer will be sent to Pottermore to handle the transaction. “This is the first time Amazon and B&N have driven customers off their platform to another site, and then given the ability to push that content back to their device.” Redmayne would not be drawn on what the retailers would earn from this deal, but said “clearly they should earn out of it in the same way we should”.
Second, Pottermore is innovating. It has to really, and has the money and space to do some really interesting things. For example, the e-books will be DRM free: DRM will only be applied once they are pushed through to a Kindle, or Nook device, or loaned to library users via the OverDrive system – but customers will also be able to download a basic DRM-free ePub version. Readers will be able to securely “push” the digital books to up to eight devices concurrently. That’s pretty flexible and shows that the Pottermore folk want to digital reading experience to be as seamless as the print example.
Third, similarly Pottermore is approaching its relationship with libraries slightly differently to the big publishers. For starters, it is making the e-book available to library users for free. But it is imposing a restriction of a five year licence on each e-book bought by a library; different for example to HarperCollins’ 26 issue rule, whereby an e-book can only be loaned 26-times before a library must buy a new copy. Redmayne explained: “It is not capped, but limited to a five year period. It can’t be perpetual, so to limit it for five years we think is fair.”
A lot more interesting stuff in the article. For example: bookstores may eventually participate, one of the reasons for the delay in launching was the time it took to get a new platform up and running to replace OverDrive, Pottermore will be using a watermark system, and more.
This all just shows how bankrupt the big publishers are when it comes to imagination and innovation!
The Pottermore store signup can be difficult. I had eight passwords – example (NOT an active password, or one I’ll use now) qlx7hb3 – rejected as ‘too weak’, and never did succeed in creating an account. Their ‘Help’ contact screen wouldn’t function. There is a mandatory ‘Tell Us More’ section that does not allow free text, and has no drop downs or other options. With all the wait and the buildup, you’d think they’d make their interface a bit less buggy.
They must be improving. I just purchased and downloaded the first book to my computer as an epub without any problems. I opened it in Calibre and converted it to mobi for my Kindle. It looks great on my Kindle.
I didn’t get the Kindle version because I didn’t want DRM. I don’t mind the watermark.
I was personally very interested to see how the watermark would work, so I bought one book tonight just to check. Turns out you can easily unpack the mobi file to edit the html and metadata files to remove the watermark. I thought this would be much more complicated but for the average user this is way too much effort just to share files.