Getting behind Pottermore

This week the Harry Potter juggernaut launched a new website Pottermore, promising further revelations next week.

The website itself is delightfully uninformative. But if you click the owl you are taken to a YouTube video with the promise of an "exclusive" announcement coming from the Harry Potter author J K Rowling on 23rd June.

Look at the bottom of the Pottermore website and the mystery deepens. It refers to the Harry Potter and Pottermore Publishing Rights belonging to J K Rowling.

An image purportedly taken from the new site features, guess what, an e-reader. Though it is impossible to prove the veracity of these images, and one contains the date 20th June 2010. Indeed, fansite The Leaky Cauldron says these are old images that have been going around for months, and are not from Pottermore.

Rowling's PR company Stonehill Salt have said it is not a new book. "All we can say is that Pottermore is the name of JK Rowling's new project. It will be announced soon, and it is not a new book." As has Neil Blair from Rowling's literary agency Christopher Little.

The smart money is on a community website, that includes an encyclopedia. The Pottermore name was trademarked two years ago by the producers of the Potter films: Warner Bro. According to a Sky news story, the trademark description of Pottermore suggests an interactive site "providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards" and "online facilities for real-time interaction with other computer users concerning topics of general interest".

But it seems likely that the Potter e-books will be part of any launch, and the timing is consistent with what I've previously been told. And those intriguing words: Pottermore Publishing. We know of course that J K Rowling's agent kept back the digital rights when Bloomsbury and Scholastic in the US bought print rights back in the mid-90s. It seems perfectly possible that Pottermore Publishing will be the company that holds the licence for those rights and makes them available for sale for the first time digitally off the Pottermore website. It is likely that Rowling's team will have used a global e-book provider to facilitate the store front.

All the talk has been about Rowling's digital deal disintermediating her publishers. But actually, it may be booksellers who are for the chop. Why would Rowling sell through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, when she can set up her own shop down Diagon Alley?

Mind you I could be completely wrong. My colleague Felicity has just heard a rumour that it could be a mobile phone. Now that would be disintermediating.

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