Pottermore—When Disintermediation Goes Awry

While everyone else was hysterically crying “game changer,” Techdirt was one of the few to take a more critical look at Pottermore’s ebook rollout and note some major flaws in the platform

“Then there are the unnecessary additional barriers to access the books. Downloading from Pottermore requires you to create yet another account with yet another website—a growing source of consumer fatigue online. Rowling has struck deals with major ebook stores to funnel people into her website, meaning if you pull up a Harry Potter title somewhere like the Kindle Store, you are asked to click through and set up a separate Pottermore account, then go through additional steps to link it to your Amazon account.”

While it’s interesting to see the affiliate script flipped on Amazon, with their redirecting traffic to purchase the ebooks (surely with a nice cut of the revenue), the user experience leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you’re used to purchasing your ebooks via the Kindle itself and/or the apps. The whole setup seems to be targeting hardcore fans—most of whom have probably already downloaded the ebooks for free via a torrent site—while asking the more casual reader to jump through hoops Amazon and B&N, in particular, have worked hard to eliminate.

Apple, notably, has refused to play along, and for once, I kind of agree with them.

Also curious are the territorial restrictions noted by WIRED that don’t allow a US reader to purchase the UK edition of the first book, which apparently retains Rowling’s “original” English, something I suspect would be particularly appealing to the hardcore fan. It’s an odd world we live in where disintermediating the retailers who offer the widest reach is prioritized over eliminating territorial obstacles that make little sense in the digital world.

As I noted on Twitter yesterday to some confusion, Pottermore is about as much a game changer as an Albert Pujols grand slam in the third inning of a game played in early May. Presto change-o, not that big a deal, oh!

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