By Edward Nawotka
A brief summary of some of this week’s most notable publishing news…
Pottermore: J.K. Rowling to Sell Harry Potter E-books Direct
The top story of the week was the launch of Pottermore, J.K. Rowling’s curiously titled new online portal for all things digital to do with the Harry Potter franchise. The site will offer Rowling’s novels for the first time as e-books. Rowling is also promising community interaction and new material about the books.
Some have suggested that by distributing the work on her own, Rowling is virtually “self-publishing” her own e-books. Early reports have also stated that the titles will be DRM free, but encoded with a “digital watermark” enabling them to be authenticated by the site. This remains a point of contention. It does appear that each of her publishers will get a cut of the transactions. American company Overdrive is responsible for digital distribution and the overall site is sponsored by the Japanese electronics manufacturer Sony.
What’s meaningful here is that it’s a new business model for blockbuster authors who want to sell direct. It’s an interesting move by Rowling, who also notes in the video below that she want’s to provide a “safe” online environment for “fans of all ages.” Presumably, she will also have some strategy to enlist the support of bricks-and-mortar booksellers who made her so rich, powerful and popular in the first place.
Pottermore.com launches in October.
E-reader Growth Outpaces Tablets, Says Study
A Pew Study of 2,277 adults indicated that:
“The percent of U.S. adults with an e-book reader doubled from 6% to 12% between November 2010 and May 2011. Hispanic adults, adults younger than age 65, college graduates and those living in households with incomes of at least $75,000 are most likely to own e-book readers. Parents are also more likely than non-parents to own these devices.”
“Tablet computers have not seen the same level of growth among U.S. adults in recent months. In May 2011, 8% of adults report owning a tablet computer…. This is roughly the same percentage of adults who reported owning this kind of device in January 2011 (7%). Overall, the highest rates of tablet ownership are among Hispanic adults and those with household incomes of at least $75,000 annually.”
American Library Association Focus on E-books
The American Library Association held their annual meeting in New Orleans this week — it’s a popular event for foreign publishers — and much of the beyond-the-show-floor talk was about e-books. HarperCollins met with library representatives to discuss their plans to limit library e-books to just 26 “check outs” before their license expires. Other topics included discussion of implementing different business models for heavy circulation titles, as well as the possibility of libraries building their own e-book distribution platform.
A report by Peter Brantley sums it all up nicely here.
In related news: 3M has developed e-book lending kiosks for libraries, as well as smartphone, tablet and e-reader apps, and will deliver its own e-reader. Much of its software, hardware, and title selection is derived from its investment in the German e-book company txtr.
California Passes Internet Sales Tax Law
Deeply in debt, California passed a law to tax all internet purchases made by residents of the state. Independent bricks-and-mortar booksellers cheered — they’ve been fighting for this for nearly a decade — while Amazon.com promptly cancelled the “affiliate” contracts for all California-based sites (which account for an enormous number of web sites).
This week the state of Texas continued to debate the issue of whether or not to tax sales — late last year, the governor vetoed a similar plan, but the state also presented Amazon with a $269 million bill for uncollected sales taxes over the previous four years by Texas residents. In response, Amazon has yo-yo-ed back and forth, threatening to close or, alternately, expand distribution and warehousing operations in the state, which would translate into job losses or gains for the state.