HarperCollins has begun selling some ebooks directly to consumers, beginning with titles by C.S. Lewis, the author of the classic Narnia series. The ebooks are available through two new websites, Narnia.com and CSLewis.com, as DRM-protected EPUB files. Each book in the Narnia series is $6.99. Accenture Digital Services is providing the backend.
“Launching a platform that allows HarperCollins to establish a direct-to-consumer marketing and sales proposition to expand some of its strongest brands to new audiences means we honor both our past and our present,” Chantal Restivo-Alessi, HC’s chief digital officer, said in a statement.
When I tried buying ebooks through Narnia.com and CSLewis.com this morning, I couldn’t get the purchasing to work in the Chrome (s GOOG) browser, only in Safari (s AAPL). Also, note that you’re buying an Adobe DRM-protected EPUB file, so Kindle (s AMZN) users can’t purchase the ebooks directly through HarperCollins’ site unless they want to break the DRM and then convert to MOBI. Otherwise, they can just go to Amazon’s site and buy the book there.
HarperCollins has also launched an iOS and Android app, HarperCollins Reader, that claims to offer “instant access to thousands of ebook titles from the catalog of one of the world’s oldest and largest publishers. Browse and purchase titles directly from the publisher of such authors as Neil Gaiman, Stephanie Laurens, Ann Patchett, Veronica Roth, and Daniel Silva.” Except, well, for now the app doesn’t actually offer any of those things. You can read a Narnia book that you’ve already purchased via Narnia.com or CSLewis.com but you can’t browse other titles or buy ebooks from any of the authors listed in that app description: Entering the app is like entering an empty shell. HarperCollins says that it will eventually make other ebooks available for direct purchase.
Update: HarperCollins changed the text of the app description on Wednesday afternoon and will change the images as well, to reflect the fact that this is only C. S. Lewis ebooks for now.
An earlier version of this post said this is the first time a big-5 publisher has sold ebooks directly to consumers. That’s not true; other publishers have also dabbled with selling a few titles directly. This appears to be a broader initiative on HarperCollins’ part, however, thanks to the Accenture deal.