No E-Book For Harry Potter

Menghan Yum 8, of Bejing, looks at the cover of a new Harry Potter book on the last day of BookExpo America in New York, Sunday, June 5, 2005. Some of those books, like "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and Bob Woodward's Deep Throat memoir, "The Secret Man," were buzzed to the sky even before the convention. AP

When "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" comes out in July, children from around the world will line up at stores or wait anxiously at home or summer camp for their copy to arrive by mail.

But anyone looking to read the book online, at least legally, should not even try.

J.K. Rowling has not permitted any of the six Potter books to be released in electronic form, not even during the peak of the e-book craze a few years ago. Neil Blair, a lawyer with Rowling's literary agency, would only say that "this has not been an area that we have sought to license" and did not comment directly on whether pirated e-books, a common phenomena for Potter titles, were hurting sales.

"We monitor the Internet and take appropriate action," Blair says.

Rowling's choice follows an industry trend. Young people are supposedly more open to new technology, but the e-book market works in an opposite way. Adult best sellers such as Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and David McCullough's "1776" are available electronically, but not books by Rowling and many other popular children's authors, including Lemony Snicket, Cornelia Funke and R.L. Stine.

"It's not like we haven't tried this market," says Jason Campbell, marketing director for Harper Media, a division of HarperCollins that oversees e-book distribution.

"We've done R.L. Stine and (Meg Cabot's) 'The Princess Diaries' and it didn't work. 'Princess Diaries' has been our most successful young adult series in e-books, but it pales in comparison to e-book sales for Michael Crichton."

Several reasons are cited, from authors preferring books on paper to concerns over digital piracy to competition from television and other media. But the greatest problem is the lack of a popular reading device, a handicap that has held back the whole e-book business from the start.

"I didn't think then, and I don't think now, that there is a cool enough or interesting enough hardware to get the kids engaged," says Barbara Marcus, president of the children's books division of Rowling's U.S. publisher, Scholastic, Inc.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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