Tech Tip: Rowling’s Potter E-Books Unbound from E-Reader Devices
After years of anticipation, author J.K. Rowling last week released on Pottermore.com the first digital copies of her popular Harry Potter series.
The release, which occurred a few weeks earlier than initially planned, caused a sensation among series’ biggest fans, who no longer have to lug around a 700-page novel when they want to get their Potter fix. It also created quite the stir among industry onlookers. That’s because the books contain no encryption, meaning that they will work on any e-reading device (Kindle, Nook, you name it).
This is stark change–and possibly a pivotal moment–in the world of digital publishing. Right now, e-books are published with a Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption. That means retailers, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, scramble the text of their digital books in a way that can only be read by their brand of e-reader. It’s why you can’t download and read a Nook book on your Kindle, and vice versa.
DRM, according to publishers, helps to stop piracy and enforce copyright laws for digital books. It also has benefits for the e-book lending in libraries, since there’s no way to return a book that does not have an encryption. DRM-free books clearly benefit consumers, though, allowing them can swap the books among a variety of digital readers.
And customer satisfaction is, of course, at the heart of Pottermore.com’s controversial move. The release illustrates Rowling’s attempt capture readers’ attention (and money), rather than directing business to large, online retailers.
Still, it’s worth noting that the new Harry Potter e-books aren’t entirely encryption-free. The books contain a watermark that will only allow consumers to download a purchased book from the site up to eight different times. This allows the company to track potential copyright abuses without precluding consumers from reading the book on multiple devices.
Here’s another important caveat: If Potter fans transfer their e-books to their Amazon or other retailer account, the book will automatically take on the DRM of that bookstore. This means that the book would no longer be compatible with other devices.
All things considered, this is a big moment for Harry Potter fans, and quite possibly an even bigger moment in the history of digital literature.