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What Book Publishers Should Learn From Harry Potter 196

New submitter Volanin writes "The e-book versions of the Harry Potter series are being released through Pottermore, and J.K. Rowling has chosen to do a number of interesting things with them, including releasing them without DRM restrictions. 'One of the encouraging things about the Pottermore launch is that the books will be available on virtually every platform simultaneously, including the Sony Reader, the Nook, the Kindle and Google's e-book service. ... even Amazon has bowed to the power of the series and done what would previously have seemed unthinkable: it sends users who come to the titles on Amazon to Pottermore to finish the transaction.'"
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What Book Publishers Should Learn From Harry Potter

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:32PM (#39499791)


    • by Bradmont ( 513167 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:38PM (#39499901)
      Just buy the epub and convert it with Calibre.
      • You mean we can convert from Epub to the kindle format using Calibre? Cool.

        • by Bradmont ( 513167 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:52PM (#39500039)
          Yeah, it can convert bewteen just about any ebook format you can imagine. There are also plugins to strip DRM, but amazon recently changed its DRM scheme, so YMMV.
        • Well, you can convert it to .mobi, which the Kindle will happily read. Amazon has a few formats, including .azw which is a DRM'd version of .mobi.
        • by iceaxe ( 18903 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:48PM (#39500847) Journal

          Having purchased one DRM'ed Nook book before I got a Kindle, and one DRM'ed kindle book since then, I wised up and now I only purchase DRM free ebooks (generally epub), manage the collection with Calibre, and convert the books as needed for loading on devices.

          If a book is not available without DRM, I do not purchase it.

          • If a book is not available without DRM, I do not purchase it.

            "If a book is not available without DRM, I do not purchase it." Buy it and strip it from the drm. Then you can load it unto every type of device you own, and don't have to rely on Amazon. And yes, even since amazon changed drm-scheme it still works with the latest un-stripper (weird word btw). Or are these things illegal where you live?

    • Shrug.

      IMO, anyone who bought a Kindle has already made a pretty clear statement that they're perfectly happy with DRM and willing to reward it financially. What do they expect?

      • by iceaxe ( 18903 )

        On the contrary, I have a Kindle loaded up with nothing but DRM free books. Amazon will probably take a loss on me, since I refuse to buy their DRM laden wares, but I'm happy with the hardware at what is probably below their cost.

        • I thought about going that route, but had a horrible suspicion that the installed base is what publishers look at when deciding how and where to release ebooks. From that perspective, the fact that you're keeping your Kindle clean is irrelevant. It's another Kindle, and as such is another argument for them to release with DRM since that's "obviously" what customers are happy with.

      • And in addition to iceaxe, I too have no DRM books.

        Almost entirely Project Gutenberg, or similar projects. And scanned copies of things I already own (archival exception to copyright restrictions).

        Since a Fake Book / Real Book has mostly just one-page tunes (the head and changes), you could load up 20-30 songs and play jazz for several hours, just pausing between songs long enough to push "next page". Want to change the set list? Re-arrange the PDF and send it to the band. I haven't scratched the surfac

  • good on her (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hguorbray ( 967940 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:32PM (#39499797)
    it will take authors of her stature to claw back some author's rights back from apple and the publishers

    I'm just sayin'
    • it will take authors of her stature to claw back some author's rights back from apple and the publishers

      That's a ridiculous statement. What rights have authors lost specifically to Apple? All available evidence indicated Apple would prefer that DRM be removed from media.

      • it will take authors of her stature to claw back some author's rights back from apple and the publishers

        That's a ridiculous statement. What rights have authors lost specifically to Apple? All available evidence indicated Apple would prefer that DRM be removed from media.

        They lost the right to sell the books at a reasonable price. People on Slashdot keep forgetting that the iBookstore or whatever it's called came along with negotiations that contractually forced Amazon to raise ebook prices by >50%.

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          And you seem to forget that was a lie.

        • Re:good on her (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@w o r f . n et> on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:30PM (#39500537)

          They lost the right to sell the books at a reasonable price. People on Slashdot keep forgetting that the iBookstore or whatever it's called came along with negotiations that contractually forced Amazon to raise ebook prices by >50%.

          No, that's not an author right they lost. They gained that right with Apple's agency model.

          Otherwise what happened was Amazon was selling books at a loss (to them) in an effort to drive out everyone else from selling e-books. The publishers and authors had no right to say what price Amazon could sell at. So if Amazon decided your books were worth $1, sure they could be paying you $3 for each copy, but you won't be able to sell your next book for any more than $0.50 per copy as everyone thinks your book is only worth $1.

          As well, Sony/B&N/Kobo won't be able to compete and exit the e-book market (if they have to pay $3 per book and Amazon's big enough to dump it at $1...), leaving Amazon the only player in town.

          Amazon went for the wholesale model - they bought N books for $X, and sold it for $Y (X and Y have no general relation, though Y > X for a profit). Apple went with the agency model - the publisher sets the price, and Apple sells it for that price.

          Consumers love the wholesale model - books are cheaper and get discounted, though publishers hate it (devalues the book) as do authors. If you want to see this in action, check out developer complaints about 99 cent games making it hard for other developers to charge $4.99 for games (better ones, of course) and such.

          Of course, Amazon could be devaluing the market to be the only contender (Amazon's Kindle store is the largest after all) and with the DRM, once you're locked in and the other stores are gone, Amazon is free to jack up prices.

    • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:02PM (#39500191)

      They call it watermarking, but it's tracking by any other name. "The Pottermore Shop personalises eBooks with a combination of watermarking techniques that relate to the book, to the purchaser and the purchase time. This allows us to track and respond to possible copyright misuse."

      So don't copy the floppy..... er, book to your friends.

      • by Transkaren ( 1925482 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:47PM (#39500817)
        And the problem with this - assuming it doesn't interfere with the function of the book in any way - is what exactly? It's like a registered serial number - it's *your* copy. Quite honestly, it's probably the single best copy protection method out there - both from an enforcement ("See this? It's yours") and rights (But make backups and change formats as much as you want) way.
      • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:55PM (#39500933)

        "I don't understand potions", said Ron gloomily.
        "You don't understand anything!" said Hermione snootily.
        "Cut it out, you two. I'm trying to watch the Quidditch", said John Thompson, the twenty eight year old living at 17 Acacia Avenue, Surrey, credit card number 5753100085692323.

      • And does this watermarking survive being converted to other formats through Calibre or other similar software people use to manage their e-readers? I doubt it.

        • by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:00PM (#39502467)

          It could be something subtle, non-markup-language-related like inserting zero-width space characters within the text or replacing the Latin letter "O" with the identical looking Cyrillic letter "O" in a kind of individualized code. Unless you know the exact code, or someone "diffs" two copies of the text to determine what's being done, you can't strip it. And, instead of going through a lot of trouble and potential risk to get a watermark-free copy to disperse, you might as well just tell your friend to download a rip from any one of billions of websites. Hardcore pirates have used stolen credit cards anyway, so they're not going to care about some silly watermark.

          Although, I suspect we will soon be finding out what happens when Amazon et al add a term to their license saying that you agree to allow them to automatically delete any books from their, er, your device that have an "invalid" watermark, meaning anyone's watermark but yours.

      • So its DRM-free but tied to a specific user. Its still possible to put it on any device you own and give copies to your friends, but when its shows up on a torrent site it can be traced back to an individual.

        Just make sure the friends you share it with don't upload it to a public place.
    • However an Author of her Status (and money in the bank) really has little to fear from rogue pirating and distribution issues.

      The average author is not making a living off their books, at best they are paying for lunch. So every pirated book counts for much larger percentages of their revenue.
    • It's clear that J.K. Rowling is part of the piracy problem.
  • by StatureOfLiberty ( 1333335 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:38PM (#39499903)
    Each book is a Horcrux. Who needs DRM restrictions? :-)
  • A) Nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:38PM (#39499905) Journal
    What Book Publishers Should Learn From Harry Potter

    They should learn form this that we wanted these 5+ years ago, preferably released simultaneously with the print version, and ideally the print versions should have included one free e-Version each.

    What will they learn from this? They'll learn that they can fake it and promote themselves as "DRM-Free" by releasing material that everyone already owns in another form (and therefore piracy doesn't much matter), which continuing to burden new releases and reference material under as onerous of a lock as they can clamp on.
    • Exactly. We bought all of these as they came out in print (for my daughter - I think they're drivel). We're not going to pay for the electronic versions, even though they'd be nice to have.

      • The first 3 books are drivel. The latter 4 books are pretty dark (I'm not sure children should even read them).

    • I agree. A free e-version should be included with all physical book purchases. True, someone could just go and sell the physical book and keep the e-book, but that only counts for first-time sales. Seems that game publishers are more than happy to provide free DLC to first-time buyers - maybe this will catch on with books. I don't doubt Kindle might be around for 20 years or more, but maybe I'll move on to a different ereader before then. Therefore, I'm only willing to spend a small amount on an e-vers

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:42PM (#39499939) Homepage Journal

    Never releasing digital, to a digital release.

    And by funny, I mean money.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:00PM (#39500177) Homepage Journal

      So? Is it evil to like money now?

      All of the Harry Potter books are within what would be a reasonable copyright term, so she's entitled to maximize the money she makes from them. It makes perfect sense to hold back the eBooks until the hardcopy sales dropped, and she's done the right thing here, which is not to penalize legitimate users of the eBooks in the name of piracy prevention.

      • Its evil to like money to that degree. She has more then enough to live on for several lifetimes. I will never in my life understand insatiable greed. Its ok to leave money on the table if your needs are met, truly
    • Actually I heard recently that she's slipped from the world's billionaires list to the millionaires one, because she's given away so much to her charities. I suspect money isn't her driving force.

      Need I add, I wish more gazillionaires were as generous. How many million do you need in one lifetime, after all.

    • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @05:26PM (#39501333)

      Perhaps she decided she needed more money to give away.

      Apparently, she donated ~$160 million to charity this past year, and fell off Forbes' Billionaire list as a result.

    • by Opyros ( 1153335 )
      I don't have a link handy, but I've read that Rowling changed her mind about ebooks after she herself got a Kindle and became an enthusiast.
  • Alohomora DRM!

  • DRM free and all that is great, but they're still asking $7.99 for the kindle version on Amazon vs. $8.79 for the paperback version. It does not cost them eight bucks to send me a 300kb file...
    • I think maybe this is why there is no DRM restrictions, she will have made so much money from the sale of the virtual book from legal copies, that the illegal ones will havebeen paid for...I think this is why they are selling as expensive as the paper back versions....just my opinion...

    • It doesn't cost them $8.79 to print a book, either. What's your point?

      • The point is electronic versions don't have snail-mail shipping costs, and should be cheaper. Take Fantasy&Science Fiction magazine for example:

        $36 for the print version but only $12 for the electronic version. They save money by not printing the magazine & adding postage, and those savings are passed to their e-mag readers.

      • This is what people seem to forget. Printing a book is dirt cheap these days. You can get copies of The Bible at the dollar store, for $1. That includes printing, distribution, retail shelf space, theft and damage, retail staff, and probably a few other costs I'm forgetting. Plus I'm sure they are making quite a profit on it. They sell other books too including those romance novels. I often get books for my kids at the dollar store. The cost differential between a print book and an e-book is probably ve
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        How much does it cost to print a book in London, then ship that book to a store in Chicago, pay the bills at that store necessary to support the sale to one person? How about the same incremental cost for an e-book?
    • by epedersen ( 863120 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:51PM (#39500029)
      No, it costs them $0.80 to print and send you a papterback version. The cost of the content is what you are paying $7.99 for.
      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        Yep. Economies of scale and all that. A bottle of beer costs even less to make -- an order of magnitude less.

      • In large print quantities, that's true. In smaller print quantities for books from independent publishers the printing and distribution can be a significant expense, and it's also sunk cost. E-book avoids tying up a bunch of your money in printed copies that may or may not move.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      So what? How does the cost to the producer affect the value to the consumer? If they produced a book where every letter of your copy was hand-written by a graphic artist, would you pay thousands of dollars for it just because it cost that much to make?

      Assuming you have a job, how much did it 'cost' you to work today? Practically nothing - just enough nutrition to keep you alive and functioning for the day. Bet you happily accept more than a few cents for a day of work though.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

        How does the cost to the producer affect the value to the consumer?

        In the absence of a monopoly, the price of the product would be production cost + small markup. That's how everything should be priced in a Free Market. Supply/demand curves are irrrelevant with ebooks and anything with a zero cost of production in a Free Market. But copyright is incompatible with a Free Market, something I've never seen a Free Market Libertarian reconcile.

    • by Zumbs ( 1241138 )
      Believe it or not ... the main cost of publishing a book is not the actual printing. Author Charles Stross has a quite interesting series on the subject here. A few quotes:

      Overall, the process of turning a manuscript into a book is estimated to cost $7000-$20,000 — an amount comparable to the author's likely earnings from the book. In fact, the actual division of labour on a book is split roughly 50/50 between the author and the publisher.


      In particular, about 80-90% of the cover price of a book has nothing to do with the paper and ink object you buy in a shop; indeed, using current production standards, ebook production requires nearly as much work as paper book production.

      Yes, yes, I know that they already have made their initial investment back an obscene number of times, but that is a different matter.

    • Learn this lesson, and learn it well: Price != Cost. Price=Cost+Profit.
      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        Better yet, learn the real formula: Price != Cost: Price=what people are willing to pay (ie. how much value they assign to the thing)

        • That's not the real formula. camperdave had a correct formula: price = cost + profit.

          You formula describes something else, and is incorrect anyway (since different people will value the good differently). If you want to correctly state your formula, you'd need a bunch of qualifiers, and it would be much wordier. I'll paraphrase is as Price = the seller's valuation of the optimal price to induce maximum profits based on the demand curve.
    • Never mind that, why the hell does it cost $57.54 for me to buy the ebook collection, but only $50.77 to get the paperback set? The Game of Thrones 4 book set was the same thing - something like 20% more for the ebook. What's up with that?

      I think I'm missing the whole point of ebooks here. I went and bought a very expensive little gadget so I could:
      (a) Buy more books without having to spend more money (cheaper books + old book budget = more books);
      (b) Keep more books on hand without having to raise
      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        Once again, cost to manufacture does not equal value. Price is set by value. Let's assume that the value of the content is the same for the ebook and the paper book. Now, what additional value do you get by having the paper book? For some people, there is some value in that. For many people, there is no value in having the paper. What value do you get from NOT having a paper book? What value do you get from being able to carry your entire collection with you? What value do you get from being able

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:55PM (#39500087)

    Why link from Slashdot's summary to some other linkfarm's summary? Grrr. DIRECT link -

    http://paidcontent.org/article/419-you-can-buy-the-harry-potter-e-books-now/ [paidcontent.org]
    By Laura Hazard Owen

  • I just read this post [wordpress.com] today, and it shows how the Warner Bros. bullied the translators of the Potter books. No wonder Amazon gave in, they were probably bullied as well.
  • Distributors come and go, but mankind's demand for the art of the story is enduring. This is one more iteration of the chain of distributors that started with cave painters.

    Nurture the artists. They are life.
  • by guspasho ( 941623 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:19PM (#39500365)

    This is what ebooks are made for. Eliminating the middle-man, and letting the creators own the distribution of their own works. I hope this trend continues. I'm only too happy to buy these books knowing that the creator is getting the lion's share of the profits and not some publishing house.

  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:22PM (#39500409) Journal

    I've already downloaded and read all the Harry Potter books. By waiting this long to release them in ebook format, they only encourage pirating of the ebooks.

    • If they had released in ebook form earlier, people would have pirated it earlier. So they are ahead this way. And perhaps there are some honest people who will pay for ebooks that they do not already have.

  • Baen has been doing this, for quite a while now.

    David Weber's latest in hardcover is $15.39 from Amazon.or BN.

    It's available DRM free on Baen's website for $6.00.

    And the early books in his series - as in most of the series that Baen publishes, are available free at the Baen Free Library.

  • by khelms ( 772692 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @06:06PM (#39501789)
    The books may be drm free, but if you're in the US, just try and purchase the original, unedited-for-America, UK editions. You can't. The Add to Basket button is ghosted out and if you hover over the "Why can't I buy this?" link under that button you'll see.

    "Why can't I add this to my basket?

    Due to publishing restrictions, this edition of the book is not available in your country. Please choose another book language."

    So, Pottermore may have bought a clue about how useless drm is, but they still don't understand that it's a global economy now and consumers won't put up with that "not available in your country/region" crap any more.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      So drive on up to Canada and visit a major bookstore in one of the cities near the border.

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer