Take a look at Amazon’s ebook site and do a search for Harry Potter books and you will see something genuinely marvellous. Something that will warm the cockles of every publisher in the land, and perhaps even a few booksellers too.
Well, for a start, you will see that for the first time since the series began in 1997, official ebook versions of all seven titles in the Potter series are being sold.
But something even more remarkable has happened. In bringing these books to the digital marketplace, Pottermore, the business created to sell the ebooks, has forced Amazon into perhaps the biggest climbdown in its corporate history.
Instead of buying the ebooks through the Amazon e-commerce system, the buy link takes the customer off to Pottermore to complete the purchase, with the content seamlessly delivered to their Kindle device. It is the first time I’ve known Amazon to allow a third party to “own” that customer relationship, while also allowing that content to be delivered to its device. Amazon gets something like an affiliates’ fee from this transaction, much less than it would expect to receive selling an ebook through normal conditions. Schadenfreude doesn’t even come close.
Other retailers, including Barnes & Noble the giant US bookseller, are having to operate in the same way. As it stands Apple is the only ebookseller who has so far not capitulated, perhaps because it knows that it will be in a stronger negotiating position when Pottermore brings the enhanced ebooks forward. Nevertheless, Amazon was the biggie.
Why is this important? Amazon has a stranglehold over the ebook market both in the UK and in the US (though particularly in the UK where there is no Nook to challenge it). There are good reasons for this – it delivers a smooth customer service and offers ebooks at low prices. It’s a great business, and rightly wins many plaudits. The problem is that with its Kindle device it then locks the customer in. Want to buy an ebook from a competing retailer such as Kobo or Anobii and read it on your Kindle? Possible, yes; easy, no. Most customers simply won’t bother.
Many in the publishing business worry about this, and rightly so. Amazon seeks to dictate terms that are making many publishers feel uncomfortable: in the US it has recently locked out numerous independent publishers, simply because they cannot agree to its demands.
To achieve this the folk at Pottermore have released the ebooks without digital rights management, meaning that a customer can download one title on to eight different devices: or they can simply receive the basic ePub file, and do with it what they want, even side-loading it on to their Kobo devices. The ebooks will also become available to borrow from libraries – for free.
Harry Potter has always been something of a trailblazer, but now having decided to release ebook versions the author JK Rowling is allowing her creation to innovate in the digital realm. With one flick of his wand Harry Potter is redefining the digital experience for the many, while diverting the mighty Amazon. It’s the boy wizard’s best trick yet.
Source : guardian.co.uk