It's been nearly fourteen years since the first installment was published and four since the last, but J.K. Rowling, creator of everyone's favorite boy wizard, is considering finally bringing her popular Harry Potter series into the 21st century. With only a couple of months until the eighth and final film is released -- in 3-D! -- Rowling may have come up with a new way to keep her characters alive and in the zeitgeist for just a bit longer. (Oh, and bring in an estimated £100 million to pile on top of the £620 million she has already amassed.) She's thinking of turning them into e-books.
Time's Graeme McMillan pooh-poohs the idea. "I hate to be a party pooper (as in 'this might not actually be true') but I'm not sure I agree with the idea that the digital versions of the books would be that big a deal," McMillan wrote, "surely the time for that kind of impact has passed, given that the series finished four years ago."
But I disagree. As the final film comes to theaters this summer, many of us who grew up with Harry Potter and his friends will be returning to the books. I can't quite remember what happened in the final book. Can you? If I can find the time, I might be interested in giving the book a quick read before visiting the multiplex, but I'm not going to carry that 800-page doorstop with me on my morning commute. (Besides, I left it in Chicago when I moved out to D.C.) An e-book could be downloaded to my iPhone and fit neatly in my pocket. Furthermore, e-book versions of Harry Potter could potentially bring in a new audience. We know that people more carefully select reading material when they know that others will be able to see what it is they've chosen. Middle-aged fathers might be persuaded to share a cultural experience with their children -- especially if they don't have to be seen on the train reading about dragons and flying broomsticks.
Liz Thomson, the editor of BookBrunch, a website that cover the publishing industry, certainly agrees. "Experts believe that move could revolutionize the world of electronic publishing," she told the Scotsman newspaper, "triggering rocket sales of e-book readers such as Kindle and the iPad." Professor Claire Squires took it one step further. "It is akin to the Beatles allowing their music to be launched on iTunes," said the director of Stirling University's center for international publishing and communication.