Harry Potter and the Hollow Website: Why Pottermore Already Sounds Dated

Last Updated Jun 23, 2011 1:29 PM EDT

Harry Potter fans have endured a month waiting for more details on Pottermore, the mysterious J.K. Rowling website. It's finally been revealed as... a glorified interactive book collection. The concept of a virtual Harry Potter universe is awesome, but people aren't reading books in browsers -- they are reading them in apps, via games, and in other media. Building your interactive books on the web is like making a video game within a web browser -- you'll get an audience, but the average customer is going to find it way too limiting.

Here are the details:

  • Explore areas in books: Click on objects, people, and other hot spots to learn more about their history.
  • Potter e-books: As rumored earlier this year, the Potter books will finally be available in e-book form exclusively from the website. Reportedly they will be readable in "all e-book formats", whatever that means.
  • Potter audio books: Also available exclusively from the website.
  • Exclusive until October: A million lucky folks will get early access in August. The site then opens to the general public in October.
Kudos for Rowling finally getting the Potter books in digital format. As I said before, translating the 400-million-sold series could finally make e-books dominant over physical books and, of course, make Rowling and her publishers a metric ton of money.

The problem is that Pottermore itself is too limited in scope. First, e-books themselves are good, but apps could have been revolutionary. Why no partnership with Apple (APPL) for iPad apps or Barnes & Noble (BN) for Nook Color software? Groundbreaking interactive books like Alice show what a Harry Potter book app could have done.

Second, by focusing on the browser, Rowling eliminates one of the best things about her books: portability. Let's say your family is on the road and your kid wants to read the interactive Potter book. The website requires an online connection, so you'll need a 3G-enabled tablet or a stable Wi-Fi hot spot. And, for the 25 million iPads sold, let's hope Pottermore uses HTML 5, not Adobe (ADBE) Flash.

Harry Potter fans should expect more from the rich universe Rowling has created. More surprise announcements may come, but the current Pottermore plans sound less than magical.

Photo courtesy of erikskiff // CC 2.0