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April 09, 2012

Harry Potter E-Books Arrive Free of DRM

By Shawn Hebert, TMCnet Contributing Writer

After nearly fifteen years since the publishing of J.K. Rowling's first book on Hogwarts’ famous boy wizard, the Harry Potter books finally went on sale last week to e-readers including the Nook and Kindle.

Titles were released without lock down ecryption; consumers are free to transfer the series from one device to another, reading them anywhere they like. 

It is an unprecedented move that the industry is closely watching. If this unlocked approach is a success, it could provide a model for other authors and publishers.

"I think it's a very large crack in a dam that's going to collapse in the next nine to twelve months," says Matteo Berlucchi, CEO of aNobii, an independent British-based online bookstore.

Typically the text of a book is scrambled so that only authorized hardware can read it. For example, Amazon's e-books can only be read on Kindle devices and software. The same goes for Barnes & Noble's Nook.

Publishers insist on encryption as a method to prevent piracy, while helping e-book retailers defend their business models. 

The fantasy series can be purchased, passed around and shared. Up until now, fans scanned and re-typed the printed books just to make them available in electronic form.

"We believe that people should have the right, once they've bought the book, to read it on any device that they chose to," says Charles Redmayne, owner of the popular fan website Pottermore.

By removing Digital Rights Management (DRM), the Harry Potter brand can nourish its relationship with loyal customers.

"It's a very valuable thing to us to own that customer relationship,” said Redmayne.

 It gives us a tremendous opportunity to create new products that we can sell to those consumers around the Harry Potter brand."

Amazon accounts for nearly 60 percent of the e-books sold in the United States. Its closest competitor, Barnes & Noble, is the second largest with around 25 percent.

In the case of Pottermore, Amazon collaborates by sending shoppers from its site to Pottermore if they search for "Harry Potter" books. Amazon, faced with getting nothing from sales of Harry Potter books, likely decided it should be in on the game to at least get referral fees.

Amazon did not comment on its reasons for sending shoppers to Pottermore, nor would it confirm it gets referral fees.

Edited by Braden Becker
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