Harry Potter Paves a New Digital Path for Authors

April 23, 2012

Harry Potter eBookUntil recently, digital versions of the Harry Potter books were not available. 

That all changed a few weeks ago, when author J.K. Rowling began selling the digital editions of her entire catalog through her own web site, http://shop.pottermore.com.

The digital book strategy adopted by Rowling illustrates how electronic publishing can empower authors and other creators of original works.

By enabling individuals to distribute their work directly to consumers, the Internet helps authors, artists, and musicians to assert greater control over their intellectual property than they ever could before.

Over the years, approximately 450 million copies of Rowling’s books have been sold worldwide.

The books have appeared in more than 70 languages.

No electronic versions of her books were available, however, as Rowling did not grant digital publishing rights to any other party. 

Instead, she shrewdly retained those rights, intending to establish her own digital distribution system.

Avoiding traditional publishers and other intermediaries, Rowling was able to control the timing and form of digital distribution.

By controlling digital rights, Rowling was also able to set her own price for her digital books.

This strategy provided her with the largest portion of the earnings from the e-books, as she was not required to share those earning with a publisher.

Currently, only English-language digital versions of the Potter e-books are available, however, editions in other languages are expected soon.

The books can be downloaded and read on a variety of devices, including tablets, e-readers, mobile phones, and computers.

They are accessible through Sony, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble electronic book stores, but not yet through the Apple iBookstore.

Consumers anywhere in the world can access digital versions of the Harry Potter books.

Very few authors have the audience and associated commercial clout that Rowling has developed.

All authors, however, have the ability to integrate electronic publishing effectively into their intellectual property distribution strategies.

As total annual U.S. e-book sales approach $1 billion, digital distribution has become a vital tool for content creators. 

Evolution of technology continues to make it easier for content developers to offer their work to the public through digital media.

Using electronic distribution systems individual content creators can connect directly with their audience. 

The direct connection enables them to control the way in which their work reaches the public, and that control empowers content creators.

Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling have offered an important lesson to authors, artists, and musicians, by demonstrating the extent to which control over digital content rights is now a critical component of successful intellectual property rights management.