Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Unless you’ve been literally under a rock for the past week, you know that the epically important Harry Potter series is now available in ebook form from Pottermore.
This is exciting to me for two reasons. One, I am a product of my generation and a big nerd. I love, love, love Harry Potter. Waiting for the new hardcover every summer was purgatory. When the book finally arrived, it was understood that I was not speaking to anyone until it was finished, and it was the one time of year that I was allowed to read at the dinner table. I spent hours reading with my best friend. From the same copy. (Which, admittedly, was a strain on the neck and on our friendship when the faster reader hit the funny parts first.) I’ve read them so many times my copy of Sorcerer’s Stone fell apart, but I refuse to buy a new one because that is cheating, and an ebook, theoretically, will not degrade.
Two, I am a weensy bit preoccupied with ebook pricing (as you might have noticed). And I think our decisions during these early ereading years are going to be pivotal for the future of the industry, so Pottermore represents a fascinating new angle to the ebook pricing debate.
At first, the decision to price all the books at $7.99 got my publisher feathers all ruffled. I’m a big fan of the agency model, and at first all I could think was that $7.99 is way lower than even Amazon’s unsustainable $9.99 price point. My knee-jerk reaction was, “Come on, Rowling, we all know you don’t need to make any more money, but what about the rest of us jerks just trying to break even on our quiet books? People will expect this price if you do it. You’re worse than Amazon!”
I’m getting over it.
The first step was to recognize that the Potter books are available as mass market paperbacks. Most of the time, the ebook version of a book published first as a mass market is the same price as the print incarnation. And importantly, these aren’t new releases. Even under the agency model, the bookseller would have been within its rights to lower the price on the ebook after it was available for a few years.
The next step was to applaud Pottermore for sticking it to Amazon. Yes, you can buy Potter ebooks for your Kindle, but Amazon is only collecting an affiliate’s fee for the sale. (Now, I need to take three or four steps back here and recognize Amazon for its integral role in my Potter upbringing in years past. Thinking about it kind of floored me. Simply put, I would not be the person I am today without Amazon’s release-day shipping. Because I sadly never saw the merit in mingling with the wand-toting diehards in the line at Barnes & Noble.)
Currently, I’m in a weird sort of making-up-my-mind state. I’m excited about the potential for publishers to be their own ebook sellers, and just to see a new way for a publisher and author to market their own ebooks.
That said, I am still waiting to see what might happen because of that low price tag. And, the same model that keeps money from Amazon will also keep money from an independent ebook seller.
So, as ever, I’m waiting with bated breath to see what the general ebook-buying public has to say about Pottermore’s price, and if it has any bearing on ebook pricing at large.