“Harry Potter” writer J.K. Rowling just announced a new site called “Pottermore,” where, among other things, people will be able to purchase Harry Potter e-books for the first time.
Pottermore will sell e-books directly to consumers, bypassing today’s big e-books stores, Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple’s iBookstore.
“Once the online store opens, the full Harry Potter series will be available as e-books in multiple languages, compatible with any electronic reading device,” the WSJ’s Paul Sonne reports. (Emphasis ours.)
Here’s the problem: There isn’t a single e-book format right now that will work on “any electronic reading device” with digital rights management (DRM) copyright protection.
Amazon’s Kindle, the most popular e-reader, supports its proprietary Kindle e-book format, but does NOT yet support ePub, a format used by other devices, such as Apple’s iPad and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. (And different ePub stores use different DRM formats, we understand.)
So, how is this all going to work? We have a couple of ideas:
Rowling could exert pressure on Amazon, aiming to either get it to let her sell Kindle-format books through her own store (seems less likely), or to start supporting ePub books on the Kindle (seems more likely, but still a potential challenge).
“If any author could get Amazon to change its policy, it’s J. K. Rowling,” paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen argues.
That’s a good point. Amazon certainly doesn’t want the Kindle to be known as “that e-reader that can’t work with Harry Potter books.”
While opening up the Kindle to ePub could potentially weaken Amazon’s grip on the Kindle, it won’t kill it. Most people are still going to buy their e-books from the Kindle e-book store no matter what other formats it will support — especially as the “agency model” pricing system forced onto the industry by book publishers means e-books tend to cost the same at all stores.
In theory, Amazon should be happy that you’re reading anything on a Kindle, with the hope that most of the e-books you buy are from its store.
As an alternative, Pottermore could sell e-books in different formats for different e-readers, such as ePub for the iPad and Nook, PDF for the Kindle, etc. This sounds obnoxiously complicated, though, and could make it difficult to use DRM for Harry Potter e-books. (We assume that’s a non-starter, as it could encourage piracy. E-books aren’t MP3 song files, yet.)
Any other ideas? We suppose we’ll find out the answer soon. But this definitely shows how complicated the e-book business is right now — both for vendors and for users.
Don’t miss: How Amazon Saved The Kindle
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