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Harry Potter and the Direct, DRM-Free Sale

It took her awhile, but J.K. Rowling now apparently believes in the future of ebooks.  Last week's Pottermore announcement was huge and featured two important publishing elements: a direct sales model and a lack of DRM.

Harry Potter is one of those unique brands that dwarfs everything associated with it.  Most Potter fans can name the author but few could tell you the publisher without looking at the book's spine.  Although that's often true with other novels, Harry Potter is much more than a series of books or movies.  It's an experience, or so I'm told.  (I'm not a fan, have never read any of the books or seen any of the movies but my house is filled with plenty of diehards who have told me everything I need to know.)

Rowling realizes the strength of her brand and knows she can use it to establish direct relationships with her fans.  And so via Pottermore, the author doesn't need any of the big names in ebook retailing.  Why settle for a 20% royalty or a 70% cut of the top-line sale when you can keep 100% of it?  And why only offer one format when some portion of your audience wants MOBI for the Kindle, others want EPUB for their Apple/Sony devices and maybe a few more would prefer a simple PDF?

It's not surprising that J.K. Rowing is forging ahead with a well thought-out direct sales plan.  What blows my mind is that more publishers aren't doing the same.  Sure, you'll find publisher websites selling PDFs.  Some even offer other formats, but rarely do you find a publisher's website with all the popular ebook formats.  Regardless of what type of device you have, it sounds like you'll be able to purchase a Harry Potter ebook for it on Pottermore.  I hope they take the extra step and include all the formats in one transaction like we do on  Rather than only getting a MOBI file from Amazon or an EPUB file from Apple, one simple transaction on gives you access to both (and more!).  Every publisher's ecommerce site should be structured like this.

The other smart move by Rowling is the exclusion of DRM from Pottermore ebooks.  Here's an important question for authors and publishers everywhere: If Harry Potter doesn't need DRM, why does your book?!  If you'll ditch DRM you'll be able to offer all those formats like we do on  You'll show your customers you trust them and you'll also make it far easier for them to actually use your content.  What a concept!


S. Kay

news reports indicated overdrive was fulfilling the transaction, which would not necessarily mean DRM free. unless i missed it, no direct confirmation from regarding DRM.

David Wogahn

Joe, I'm wondering if there is a downside to this for Kindle readers (I believe others too but I'm not certain). I'm now responsible for safeguarding my book and moving it between reading devices--or maybe Pottermore handles this? I also wonder about Popular Highlights.

Doug Lance

It'd be a good idea for her to set up an affiliate program. Doubt she will though.

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