JK Rowling's Pottermore Breaks eBook Lockdown, Might Change eBooks Forever
"When the Harry Potter books finally went on sale in electronic form on Tuesday, it was as if Harry himself had cast the 'Alohomora' spell on them – the one that unlocks doors. In a break with industry practices, the books aren't locked down by encryption, which means consumers can move them between devices and read them anywhere they like. If "Pottermore," J.K. Rowling's new Web store, proves a success, it could provide a model for other authors and publishers and undermine the clout of Amazon.com Inc., which dominates e-book sales. '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, the CEO of an independent British-based online bookstore, aNobii. E-books from major publishers are sold in encrypted form today. The text of a book is scrambled so that only authorized devices and software can read it. For instance, a book bought from Amazon can be read only on the company's Kindle e-readers and on its Kindle applications for smartphones, tablets and PCs. It can't be read on Barnes & Noble's Nook e-readers. Conversely, a book for the Nook can't be read on a Kindle. A book purchased from Apple Inc. can only be read on iPhones, iPod touches and iPads. Publishers insist on encryption in the form of 'Digital Rights Management,' or DRM because they believe it stops piracy. It also helps e-book retailers like Amazon defend their business models, keeping non-Amazon books off Kindle e-readers. But when Rowling fans buy a book from Pottermore, they can download it in a variety of formats, including one that is not protected by DRM. They can be read by a wide variety of applications and devices. These books can be purchased once and then passed around to friends or shared with children. Wider sharing is dissuaded by visible and invisible "watermarks" inserted by Pottermore before the download, which identify the buyer."