Can Other Publishers Do What Pottermore Did? Yes, Says Pottermore CEO

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

When Pottermore launched two months ago, it caused a stir in the publishing industry. Not because for the first time ever one of the most popular book franchises in history would be available as an e-book, but because of the way in which the site sold e-books.

Unlike every other publisher in the world that distributes its books to e-booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble which then sell them to consumers, Pottermore sells the books directly to consumers with those big booksellers driving readers to the site for the purpose.

Very literally, Pottermore turned the model on its head.

The model can work for other brands, according to Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne, who was interviewed by PaidContent reporter Laura Hazard Owen at the PaidContent 2012 conference in New York today. The key is creating a strong brand.

“Publishing companies now need to understand that the thing people like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers really respect, it’s a brand,” said Redmayne. “If we’ve demonstrated anything, it’s the power of a brand.”

In taking what was previously unavailable – Harry Potter e-books – and making them widely available, Pottermore was able to get Amazon and others to agree to a distribution deal that normally would have been unheard of.

According to Redmayne, however, the deal dovetailed perfectly with Amazon’s goals.

“What Amazon wants for its customers is the widest possible selection and the best possible price,” he said, adding that that’s what Pottermore offers.

But what other brands could do what Pottermore did?

Redmayne said that J.R.R. Tolkien or The Hunger Games might be able to create multi-platform interactive destinations like Pottermore. But could those brands get Amazon and Barnes & Noble to send buyers there?

“I don’t know,” he said.

 

Pottermore DRM Effect

According to Redmayne, the company observed an interesting phenomenon when it released its digital rights management-free e-books to the world.

At first, piracy spiked, as new Pottermore buyers put the DRM-free books on file-sharing sites. But soon after, the “digerati” in the book community commented that they were stupid for doing so because it punished a behavior that the community had asked for (stripping DRM from e-books). The commenters also pointed out that the files were watermarked making the piracy trackable.

After a short while, many of the files were removed and, ultimately, piracy overall of Harry Potter e-books, some of the most pirated e-books, fell by 20% to 25%, according to Redmayne.

Overall, the decrease in piracy was a case study of what happens when a previously unavailable e-book goes on sale for the first time, said Redmayne.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

2 thoughts on “Can Other Publishers Do What Pottermore Did? Yes, Says Pottermore CEO

  1. Jonathan

    This is nonsense – you can already buy Hunger Games & Tolkein e-books so the deal’s been done. Nobody is (or probably ever will be) is in the same position as Jo Rowling because of the moment in history and the unprecedented level of success. She happened to sign her publishing deals a few years before e-books came into being and so retained full rights over e-book versions when the technology arrived. She then held off from allowing digital publication until now and used the power of the Harry Potter brand to create a new and exclusive way to buy the books. So it’s the combination of timing and success that allowed her to do this.

    Anyone who has already published their e-books doesn’t have this option and anyone who hasn’t yet published would have to be enormously brave, confident of their success or just plain foolish to hold back from e-book publication. I would say that it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will be able to repeat this model.

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  2. Dick Hartzell

    I’m with Jonathan on this one. Pottermore Shop is an outlier with minimal predictive power.

    And frankly I’ve always suspected that Rowling opted for DRM-free less because she thought it was the right thing to do than that she needed a promotional tool to continue to attract sales from a loyal fan base that already had all her books in hardcover and paperback.

    It’s also my understanding that she’s working on enhanced versions of the Potter books that will presumably have multimedia or interactive features baked into them. Wonder if *those* will be DRM-free?

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