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J. K. Rowling’s Pottermore shop, the exclusive source for Harry Potter e-books and digital audiobooks, launched yesterday, and some muggles aren’t happy.
Negative reactions have a few common themes so far:
Downloading the books is too complicated: You create a Pottermore account, buy a book, download it and then read it on your computer, load it onto your device or link to your Kindle, Nook, Sony (NYSE: SNE) or Google (NSDQ: GOOG) account and wirelessly transfer it. (Here’s the process for various e-readers.) These are “unnecessary additional barriers to access the books,” Techdirt says, and “the number of forms and clicks needed to buy a book [are] likely to put off a lot of customers.”
There are language and regional restrictions: Wired‘s Tim Carmody notes that these restrictions “make certain editions of books available only in particular countries. This means that readers in the U.S. still can’t read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone rather than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, discover the rich U.K. slang and spelling of the unbowdlerized editions, or listen to Stephen Fry’s masterful reading of the audiobook series rather than Jim Dale’s.”
There’s still DRM, kind of: The Pottermore e-books are watermarked (or, as Pottermore calls it, “personalized”) and each can be downloaded for personal use up to eight times, so users can read the books across gadgets (or give each of their kids a copy). However, Nate Hoffelder at the Digital Reader discovered yesterday that when you buy an e-book from Pottermore and wirelessly push it to your account at an etailer (Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), Sony, Google) the book takes on that etailer’s DRM.
These complaints aren’t that big of a deal: Sorry, that one was mine. I don’t believe any of the above will be particularly problematic for everyday readers. The download/wireless transfer process may catch up a few but I didn’t find it difficult if you follow the instructions (no glitches) and I think a couple extra steps are worth it since you have the ability to download the book eight times and can also just load the EPUB file onto devices manually if you want. Similarly, language and regional restrictions may bother a few die-hard HP (NYSE: HPQ) fans but those are likely the same people who went out and bought all seven e-books yesterday anyway.
Possibly more problematic: Pottermore and Apple’s iBookstore haven’t come to an agreement yet because Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) uses the agency model for everything sold on iTunes. But Pottermore and Apple could still end up making a deal, and if they don’t, Apple may be a bigger loser than Pottermore. For now, users who want to read the Harry Potter e-books on an Apple device can just drag it onto their device and open it in iBooks. Or they can read it on another retailer’s app.
Overall, the Pottermore shop appears to be handling the presumably massive traffic it got yesterday just fine (though there was a possibly related glitch for under an hour at Amazon) and the site is promoting DRM-free books in a way no big-six publisher has before. For now I’m raising a glass of butterbeer to the Pottermore shop’s launch, but if you’re having issues or problems I didn’t mention here, let me know in the comments.