Thanks for Making it Unnecessarily Hard to Get a Harry Potter Book on My Daughter's Kindle

Exclusive Dealers

Apparently, JK Rowling made a deal with Sony to exclusively sell Harry Potter e-books on the Sony e-book through the Pottermore site, through January 2012.

What I found out today was that I still had to go to that site in order to buy any e-book version of the Harry Potter books. That posed a major inconvenience in itself because my daughter got $35 in Amazon gift cards to buy Kindle books for her new Kindle that her grandfather bought her. She said she wanted to buy the Harry Potter books with those. The (first) problem with the Pottermore Shop site? Those gift cards would be useless.

User Unfriendliness

I went ahead and went through the motions to set up a Pottermore Shop account to buy the boxed set and then decided, just before checkout but after creating an account, to bail out of the process and go and buy the individual books at Amazon instead. If you go to the page for Harry Potter on the Kindle Store, you'll find that all links go back to the Pottermore store.

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 2.03.49 PMSo, I resigned myself to going to the Pottermore.com site (manually typing it in.) I found that the site no longer recognized me as signed in. So, I used the username and password that I had previously created and stored (of course, the initial sign-up wouldn't allow copy-and-paste) and found that my login wasn't accepted. I tried copying and pasting and manually typing to no avail, until I was locked out of that "account". In between attempts, I even tried a password reset. I was able to "reset" my password, but not able to use it to login.

I decided to sign my daughter up for an account and try again. It was then that I discovered that Pottermore.com apparently doesn't use emails as usernames, but instead, gives you an option to pick one of five randomly generated [two-word + number] usernames. So, the login process for the shop and the main site are different.

Sony's Half-Baked Download Control

Once I had purchased the boxed set, I still had to download the individual books separately. For that I had to link an account. Fortunately, Kindle was one of the options available, and I could authorize downloads to that account. Weird part of the download process is that you're given 8 downloads per book, so you have some limitation as to how many places you can send it. Weirder still is that "direct download" is one of those options (I'm assuming that means a DRM-less copy). Why bother with the limitation? If someone is going to steal, they just have to do the unrestricted download once, but if someone legitimately chooses crappy e-book services that shut down, then they might (amazingly) run out of downloads.

Kudos for Sticking it to Amazon or Whomever, JK Rowling, But...

I can't really fault JK Rowling for finding a way to break free of Amazon's e-book cost structure. There are many smaller authors wary of getting sucked into Amazon's vise grip. However, I can imagine that there are many young fans out there that got a Kindle for Christmas or their birthday along with an Amazon gift card, and they just wanted to have Harry Potter on their Kindle. Their gift card is no good outside of Amazon.

I go shopping on The Pragmatic Bookshelf for many of my technical books, so I can appreciate the value that can come from an independent publisher of books, but those books have no download restrictions on them. The only copyright enforcement on the e-book version of Pragmatic Bookshelf is the honor system (and the intended recipient's name at the bottom.) I jump through hoops to download those books, but the audience of a Pragmatic is highly technical, so a few technical hurdles isn't unreasonable.

Maybe the only kids who ever get e-book readers are kids whose dads are willing to contribute cash when the gift cards are of no use and willing to jump through hurdles to get the books downloaded and set up. I hope so, because then the minor inconveniences of 1000s of fans are worth the sweetened deal you got, and your fans will never know the difference.