This post, by Mathew Ingram, originally appeared on GigaOm on 3/27/12.
After months of anticipation, the e-book versions of author J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful Harry Potter series are now available through Rowling’s Pottermore online unit, and as my PaidContent colleague Laura Owen has noted in her post on the launch, Rowling has chosen to do a number of interesting things with her e-books, including releasing them without digital-rights management restrictions. Obviously, the success of the Potter series has given Rowling the ability to effectively dictate terms to just about anyone, even a powerhouse like Amazon, but there are still lessons that other book publishers should take from what she is doing.
One of the encouraging things about the Pottermore launch is that the books will be available on virtually every platform simultaneously, including the Sony Reader, the Nook from Barnes & Noble, the Kindle and Google’s e-book service (which is part of Google Play). And in keeping with Pottermore’s status as a standalone digital bookstore in its own right, users will be able to buy the books from the Rowling site and then send them to whichever platform they wish. As Laura points out, even Amazon has bowed to the power of the series and done what would previously have seemed unthinkable: it sends users who come to the titles on Amazon to Pottermore to finish the transaction.
As we’ve pointed out before at GigaOM, one of the problems for users when it comes to the e-book landscape is the clash between competing platforms — with Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble all trying to create their own walled gardens, where users can only access titles from publishers that have deals with the platform they happen to be using. Amazon and Apple in particular both seem to see books and other media content primarily as loss leaders that can help them lock users into their proprietary platforms, and recent skirmishes have seen Apple reject books that have links to Amazon’s store, and Barnes & Noble block Amazon titles from its store.