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Harry Potter and the iBooks Snub?

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In case you haven’t heard, all seven Harry Potter novels were released today as ebooks, for the first time ever. At first blush, it looks as though all of the ebook retailers are selling the Potter ebooks — except for iBooks. But take a closer look: who’s snubbing who?

Make no mistake — this is a big deal in the publishing world. For the first time ever, a bestselling author is bucking the established system by retaining the rights to her ebooks instead of selling them through a major e-retailer like Amazon. You can’t buy the Harry Potter ebooks at Amazon, iBooks, or anywhere other than J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore Shop, where they’re being sold for between $7.99 and $9.99, or $57.54 for a collection of all seven. The ebooks are available in formats compatible with all the major ebook readers and apps, which you simply buy from Pottermore and then import to your Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks, or what have you.

As an author myself, I’m fascinated by this, because we writers with ebooks have been playing in Amazon’s sandbox for a while now, with no other options available for reaching huge numbers of readers. And I’m not alone. The publishing industry has been buzzing over this for a while, because it’s being seen as a test case, a way of determining if retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble with their DRM book files and/or proprietary ebook file formats can be ignored in favor of a better way of reaching consumers. And heck, if any author in the world can succeed at thumbing her nose at the big e-guys, it’s Jo Rowling.

But the story thickens when you visit and, and see that because she’s the most successful modern author there is, her people were able to collaborate with Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Google to have her ebooks listed on their sites — but clicking on a “buy” link will direct you straight to the corresponding product page on That’s unprecedented. Online retailers are not in the habit of linking away from their websites; it’s their job to keep you clicking on links to other pages on their own website. Futurebook reports that these online retailers are likely getting some cut of Pottermore’s sales for their trouble (and I could write a whole other article on the glorious irony of J.K. Rowling getting major ebook retailers to sign up for her very own “referral program”), but still.

Noticeably absent from this band of merry helping hand retailers, gleefully sending their customers to another website to buy products, is Apple’s iBooks. The conclusion we’re forced to draw from this is that Rowling’s people and Apple weren’t able to come to a similar agreement. In other words, homey (Apple) don’t play that. Apple wasn’t down with sending their customers over to Pottermore, even for a cut of the profits — it’s not like they need the money — so iBooks is not advertising the Harry Potter ebooks like its contemporaries.

Did Rowling’s people shut the door in the face of Apple’s unwillingness to budge on their terms & conditions? Or did Apple give Rowling a big, “Thanks, but no thanks” when presented with the Pottermore sales plan? Whatever went on behind closed doors, we’ll probably never know.

But I predict there will be lots of knee-jerk fans who don’t take the time to look closer, who will assume that J.K. Rowling is intentionally snubbing Apple, or vice versa, because it looks like the Potter ebooks are being sold everywhere but iBooks.

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

3 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the iBooks Snub?

  1. I like your article. When I saw that e books are awailable on amazon, I got excited but then I found out that the site will take you to pottermore to make actual purchase. This sucks, as a buyer this is on more step and linking and sync. Also amazon does not have a link to buy all the seven books as a set.

    This is a clear case of money gread or under-cutting the stores. JKR can do it as the books are already popular but the real question is whether she would have done the same if the books are just published? My guess is no and so I back the apple stand, they did the right thing by not bowing to JKR.

    We will see what JKR will do when she comes out with a new series?

  2. Luckily they showed up as torrents within minutes of being released and work perfectly in iBooks.

    And since I own the physical books I don’t even feel like I’m cheating the author. I may have bought them again if they were on iBooks and my wife was trying to figure out how to buy them for her Kindle from Amazon but that was also not working as usual.. so it was just easier to download them elsewhere. It was more the hassle than the money at issue.

  3. Not sure who is in the right here, as far as the business arrangement. Convenience-wise, it’s the customer who suffers. What gets me is that, for some strange reason, the Potter books — and only the Potter books — which I’ve purchased and downloaded from the Pottermore shop (after a mixup in their ordering system that double-charged me) often just disappear from the iBook shelf on my iPad. For no clear reason. I’ll open the app, tap on the book to read to the kids, and… poof. It goes away. Never happens to any other books. And it’s not just one edition. We’re on the fifth book right now and it’s happened with each of them. I have to run into the room, email it to myself, and “Open in iBooks” with the new download.

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