How to Sell the Harry Potter Ebooks
PROBLEM: The people who wrote or published the Harry Potter books are not making any money off the ebook versions, and yet the ebook versions are out there and available anywhere you choose to look. I read the last three novels on my laptop. In the case of "The Deathly Hallows," I read it even before it was available for sale in stores. Harry Potter ebooks are slightly easier to steal than condoms or gum, and just as disposable.

PROBLEM: Ebooks are dangerous and untested. They may be good for struggling unknowns, but for those who do brisk and cultish business, there is no reason to dilute the strength of what works with fly-by-night American fads that could tarnish a good British brand, which is why Rowling has been dead-set against ebooks thus far.

PROBLEM: Ebooks are mighty unaesthetic. There is nothing magical about words on a screen, and there is even less that is magical about words on a proprietary corporate See'N'Spell, such as something coded for Google, Amazon, or Apple products. The ugliness of ebooks are only exceeded by their weird inconveniences. There are thirty different formats, and thirty different companies with whom to do business, each of whom have rules and restrictions about who can buy their products and how. It is anarchy, and you don't sail Spanish treasure galleons or silk-laden Black Ships through uncharted waters.

PROBLEM: People are much more willing to buy Harry Potter movies than Harry Potter books. But those who start with one are also likely to consume the other. If we are trying to create more readers in the world, how do we make it easier for pathological film fans to engage with the printed word?


Harry Potter's universe is a world loaded with objects of deep significance. From Sorting Hats to wands to giant mechanical eggs that scream bloody murder unless you open them underwater, nearly everything that exists at Hogwarts does something magical. Even the most benign watering can can be turned into a portkey -- an object that, when touched, transports a wizard or witch instantaneously across temporal space.

In addition to Rowling's essential animism, the entire plot of Harry Potter centers on locating and destroying seven powerful objects called horcruxes, each of which contains a slice of the the partitioned soul of Lord Voldemort.

Seven books. Seven horcruxes.

Gaunt's Ring

Riddle's Diary

Hufflepuff's Cup

Slytherin's Locket

Ravenclaw's Diadem

Harry Potter Himself

The Snake, Nagini

Harry Potter's world is one in which the material has been utterly infused with the magical. Our world may be dead and cold, but Harry Potter's world hums with warm electric energy.

Which leads me to the suggestion that the Harry Potter ebooks ought to be the first high-profile ebooks sold as seeds: digital sculptures embedded with flash memory that can then be directly connected to a computer or ereader.

See "Wunderkammer Seeds: A Fantasia" for more about seeds...

Scholastic could sell these sculptures loaded with every available ebook format, including a program that plays a special, illuminated Scholastic version (with art and music). Additionally, Warner Brothers could embed the movies and computer games into the sculpture so that all things Officially Harry Potter are together at last in one touchable place.

Each sculpture would be a seed for all digital Harry Potter information. Collectors could eventually disseminate this information or not, but first they must purchase something built to last. Rowling would be able to be update the seeds as necessary from the cloud. Each seed would be something worth owning (and giving), and could even contain repositories for fan art, fan fiction, and fan mashups. Each seed could also contain the blueprints for Espresso Book Machine editions, complete with multiple covers and multiple text sizes.

I like the narrative cohesion of selling the Harry Potter seeds as the seven horcruxes, but there are some artistic difficulties, such as how you would sell a reproduction of Harry Potter himself (his wand, perhaps?) or of the snake Nagini. Perhaps it would be easier to sell each book as a different totem representative of each novel. I also like the idea of selling each seed as an orb from the Hall of Prophecy in which there is a fixed sculpture of a scene from each book carved beneath the frosted glass.

If we must have ebooks, why do they have to be washed-out ugly text files sold in graphing calculators? Why can't we make magic?

Posted by miracle on Wed, 13 Jan 2010 19:52:57 -0500 -- permanent link

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