August 15, 2022

ArtsBeat: Rowling Releases ‘Harry Potter’ Into the Ether on Pottermore

J.K. Rowling, left, with Harry Potter fans Simran Sethi, center, and Ivy Aris, both 12, at the launch of the Web site in London on Thursday.Andy Rain/European Pressphoto AgencyJ. K. Rowling, left, with the “Harry Potter” fans Simran Sethi, center, and Ivy Aris, both 12, in London, where the Web site started on Thursday.

Harry Potter is coming as an e-book.

J.K. Rowling, the author behind that blockbuster fantasy series, said at a news conference in London on Thursday that a new interactive Web site built around the series will also sell electronic editions of the seven Harry Potter books, previously available only in print and as audio books.

“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 digital generation,” Ms. Rowling said.

The announcement set off an online frenzy worldwide, as fans of the Harry Potter series learned what Ms. Rowling had been teasing out for days. Last week, she revealed a mysterious Web site,, but she would not describe the project in any detail until Thursday.

Ms. Rowling has retained the digital rights to her books and for years has resisted the creation of e-book editions, despite the potential popularity and profit that would inevitably follow. In the past several years, electronic sales of popular books have exploded, and publishers have rushed to digitize their backlist books.

The Harry Potter e-books will be available beginning in October from the online store at, a move that allows Ms. Rowling to circumvent the traditional retailing structure of bookselling. Bookstore chains and independents, which heavily promoted the release of Harry Potter books with splashy midnight release parties, will be left out of the e-book sales, but Ms. Rowling’s publishers, Scholastic and Bloomsbury, will receive a share of the revenues. Information on pricing will not be available until closer to the sale date.

The Pottermore site will include additional material that Ms. Rowling had not included in the original books, and the e-book editions are expected to contain illustrations and interactivity, she said on Thursday. “I’ll be sharing additional information that I’ve been hoarding for years about the world of Harry Potter,” Ms. Rowling told reporters in London. “I can be creative in a medium that didn’t exist back in 1990 when I started writing the books.”

While legions of Harry Potter fans could download e-books to complement the hardcover editions they already own, publishers expect that younger readers who did not experience the original frenzy surrounding Harry Potter books could discover them in digital form first. The electronic editions will be compatible with all major e-readers. Ms. Rowling’s publisher in the United States, Scholastic, said it would provide marketing and promotional support to help sell directly to schools and parents. “This will surely inspire more interest in the series and bring a whole new generation of readers to Harry Potter,” Scholastic said in a statement.

The release of the e-books could dampen the rampant piracy of the Harry Potter books, which are among the most pirated on file-sharing sites, a practice that has frustrated Ms. Rowling and her publishers for years.

All seven Harry Potter books smashed sales records, selling 450 million copies worldwide, and were translated into 70 languages. The final film in the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” is scheduled to open in the U.S. on July 15.

The arrangement Ms. Rowling described on Thursday was unusual by publishing standards, but perhaps only possible for an author with her wealth and clout. Most publishers will not acquire the print rights of a book without the digital rights attached. Ms. Rowling invited fans to submit their e-mail addresses to the Web site, which will host an online challenge allowing the winners to enter the finished Web site early. Sony was a partner in developing and building the Web site.

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