Home » Bestsellers, Self-Publishing » Harry Potter Could Force Amazon to Open Up The Kindle

Harry Potter Could Force Amazon to Open Up The Kindle

24 June 2011

Here’s an interesting theory on one of the side-effects of J.K. Rowling and her Pottermore ebook self-publishing venture.


Digital distributor OverDrive will provide the e-book platform for Pottermore, according toPaidContent. Bloomsbury, Rowling’s publishers in the U.K. will receive some slice of the revenues as will, presumably, Scholastic, her U.S. publisher. Rowling made it clear that she wants her books to be made available on every device to “guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time.” But that would mean bringing the book to the Kindle, which would allow Amazon a cut of the revenues as well. Though, as Laura Owen has pointed out, “if there’s any author that Amazon would let dictate the terms, it’s Rowling.” But at what cost?

When Harry Potter debuted more than a decade ago, it shook up the publishing world. Since then, hundreds of millions of copies have been sold all over the world. Rowling has positioned herself to disrupt the digital publishing system, too, using the exact same materials. Her new site won’t start selling audiobooks and e-books until sometime in October, so the details are still a little shaky. Presumably, Rowling and her team are looking into all of their options.

“We want to make sure anyone who buys it can read it on any device,” Pottermore CEO Rod Henwood told the Bookseller. “We are talking to the Kindles, the Apples, the Googles, Barnes & Noble to make sure they are compatible. We set the pricing, we maintain the policy of making them available to as many readers as possible.” Henwood’s words suggest that the Potter books will be released in a single format, probably EPUB. The problem? Amazon’s Kindle, which controls about 60 percent of the e-reader market, according to PaidContent, doesn’t support EPUB. But, if that’s the route Rowling decides to take, it had better start. If Amazon doesn’t change its policies, it will risk losing Potter fans to the Nook, the iPad, the Kobo and other e-readers currently on the market.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Passive Guy thinks the Pottermore move will sell a lot of ereaders for use by children, which speeds up the decline of paper books.

He also thinks Amazon will work with Rowling because many parents will decide an ereader stuffed with Potter books is the perfect birthday or Christmas present for a child of a certain age.

Bestsellers, Self-Publishing

9 Comments to “Harry Potter Could Force Amazon to Open Up The Kindle”

  1. I could see this dovetailing with existing plans (should they exist) at Amazon to open up devices to EPUB. Aside from the rumors on that very point, their impending launch of an Android tablet means that if they *don’t* support EPUB, someone will release an app for it that does.

    But if Amazon isn’t already planning to support EPUB, I can’t see this forcing their hand. Rowling is selling ebooks exclusively through Pottermore, so I don’t see how Amazon will get a cut either way. If the Pottermore team want the ebooks to be available on the Kindle platform they could easily release them in MOBI as well as EPUB. We are only talking about seven books, after all.

    Am I missing something?

    • Brendan – I think Pottermore is designed as a safe online place for kids who love fantasy. If their parents buy into that premise, they’ll purchase a lot of ereaders. If those ereaders aren’t Kindles, Amazon will take a big hit. A lot of people have compared ereaders to razors – you purposely underprice them in order to sell razorblades.

  2. I agree with Brendan. If the books aren’t being sold via Amazon’s Kindle Store, I don’t see how this puts pressure on Amazon. If Rowling would let Amazon sell directly, then, yeah, I can see how forcing them to accept the format of Rowling’s choice could happen. However, I would then expect Amazon to either process the files into their DRM format prior to delivery or to provide a tool that enables Kindle owners to do so. And if Amazon doesn’t get to sell the books directly (which looks likely), that type of tool could still be made available to consumers so the files could be made compatible. I say this without knowing if what I’m spouting is even possible.

  3. If you open an ePub file in Kindle Previewer (Amazon’s desktop Kindle emulator), it converts on the fly to MOBI. KindleGen accepts ePub as a source file. I would bet the Kindle itself is an OS upgrade away from full ePub capability.

    • Eugene – I had a discussion over lunch about whether an OS upgrade would get Kindle to ePub compatibility and our unschooled opinions were affirmative.

      • Having “jailbroken” a Kindle and looked at the underlying OS (Linux), I concur. Most of the hooks are already there (EPUB is essentially encapsulated HTML, and the Kindle already has a built in web browser).

        I have no doubt that there are ePub-capable Kindles in Amazon’s labs and have been for a while. All they’d need to do is push out a software upgrade.

  4. My schooled opinion says so too. 😉

    Since there is open source software already available, it would take Amazon two days to create this upgrade from scratch. Of course, getting away from the DRM mentality might take considerably longer. Thank you JKR.

    • Eric – Additional research following the discussion says you’re correct about the simplicity of conversion.

      I wonder how much of Amazon’s DRM is motivated by the desire of publishers for a security blanket.

      • I wonder if we’ll see ridiculous lawsuits from downloading e-novels illegally as has happened with the illegal download of mp3s, with people being hit with fines totaling over a $100,000 for pirating songs for personal enjoyment.

        I buy songs that I like and don’t illegally download anything (mostly because I don’t know how to), but I have burned a friend’s CD to my computer and not purchased my own copy. And in every instance it was because I didn’t like the CD that much. I might buy one or two songs from it on iTunes, but I’m not going to buy a CD full of songs that I don’t like all that much. My point with this is that people will pay for all and only what they really like. All of the DRM encryption in the world won’t make people buy what they don’t like enough to buy.

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