Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If You Were J.K. Rowling...

...what would you do?  If you haven't been keeping up with the efforts of J.K. Rowling, she had the audacity to want to "go it alone" and offer ebooks of the Harry Potter series herself.  Not through Amazon, not through Apple or Barnes & Noble.  Nope, she wanted all ebook sales to happen through her own special website:  Pottermore.

Now, many months ago when I had first heard about this, I thought it was a potentially brilliant move on her part.  Actually, what was brilliant on her part was years ago keeping control of the ebook version of her books by leaving them out of the publishing contract.  The next step was setting up her own website just for fans of the series where they could, in theory, get all things Potter.  Brilliant.

Now, after many months of development, testing, etc., it is beginning to come to light that things are not going so well in the world of Pottermore.  Delays have become common, communication is barely existent, and people are getting frustrated.  Probably the biggest No-No that happened was the delay in releasing the Harry Potter ebooks until 2012.  Couple that with the recent release of a whole new line of Amazon Kindle readers (including one that is $79), and you've got a disaster in the making.

Exactly how much business will be lost by the delay of the ebooks this holiday season?  It's hard to say, but I'm willing to estimate loses in at least the hundreds of thousands, probably more.  Will it be made up?  Possibly, as long as things rapidly improve with the website.  Otherwise, what she's running the risk of is pirated copies of the Potter ebooks.  Now, I know what you're saying:  haven't I been the one to tell people not to worry about pirating?  Yes, I have, but I believe that this is a special case.  She's a well-known quantity, and there are oodles of fans that would love to have the ebook versions of the books; many of them wouldn't care if it wasn't the "authorized" version.  Will that happen?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  But why make that an option?

In the end, if the ebook versions are ready to go, why not hide most of the other stuff until next year and just offer the ebook versions in time for the holiday season?  What this would gain her would be 1) sales of the ebooks at a time when the ereader revolution is exploding even more, 2) time to debug and refine the extras that she would like to offer fans on the website, and 3) a chance to reverse the ill will that has been generated due to the current issues.  It wouldn't take much to make this happen, in my opinion.

But what about you?  What would you do if you were in Rowling's shoes?