What is Pottermore: 5 top theories

J.K. Rowling has said that she will reveal the nature of her new website, Pottermore, tomorrow. Until then, here are our Top 5 best guesses.

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    “The owls are gathering," says J.K. Rowling. "Find out why soon.”
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Where is Harry Potter’s divination crystal ball when you need it?

Guesses are flying about J.K. Rowling’s mysterious new website, Pottermore.com, but even the likes of Severus Snape couldn’t divine what’s bubbling away in the cauldron of Ms. Rowling’s mind.

Here’s what we know so far: The website features only a pink background, a pair of staring owls, and the words “Pottermore” and “coming soon…”

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(We also know Pottermore is not another book. A representative of Rowling told The Guardian, “All we can say is that Pottermore is the name of J.K. Rowling’s new project. It will be announced soon, and it is not a new book.”)

Rowling is stirring the cauldron with a YouTube announcement page counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds to her June 23 announcement. It proclaims, “The owls are gathering. Find out why soon.”

We couldn’t wait. Here are five guesses as to what Pottermore might be:

1. Our best guess: Pottermore stands for Potter Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Experience and is a sophisticated online MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). That’s an online game in which users assume characters and virtually live, play, and interact in Harry Potter’s universe: (the most popular MMORPG today is “World of Warcraft,” with more than 11 million people playing.) “I bet there are millions of people out there who would want to live inside the world of all things Harry Potter with J.K. Rowling or those in charge able to add new elements to the game all the time,” says David Sztypuljak on his blog HeyUGuys. There is strong evidence to suggest that this most closely depicts the trademark description filed by Warner Bros. in 2009 for an interactive website called “Pottermore.”

2. Since we’re going for acronyms, how about this: Pottermore stands for Potter Massive Online Reference Encyclopedia. Rowling has said her fans want many more character details and backstory than she could write into her monumentally popular (and already lengthy) books. Rowling has suggested on her website that she would like to use extra material from her books to compile a reference book of sorts for fans. “I might do an eighth book for charity, a kind of encyclopedia of the world so that I could use all the extra material that's not in the books ... we'll see!”

3. We know it’s not a book, but how about an e-book? Perhaps Rowling is using the opportunity to announce the launch of her "Harry Potter" novels as e-books? The time is right, as Wired recently suggested in a posting on Pottermore: “Since the last book was published in 2007, the e-book and e-reader industry has flourished – with a host of devices including the iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, and Nook launching. By publishing official digital versions of her books, she would offer e-book fans a legitimate and legal alternative to pirating and net a tasty profit in the process.”

4. It’s a social network. Since so many readers seem to be gaga over Facebook and Twitter and the world of social media, maybe Rowling is dishing them up another Potter-flavored serving. Already, the gigantic "Harry Potter" fanbase gathers across a range of fan-created platforms, including Mugglenet, HPANA, and The Leaky Cauldron. Perhaps Rowling is finally uniting fans around the world in a single, author-created website. “By being in control of the fanbase, Rowling will get all of the demographic information, email addresses, and other data that is conventionally held by the publisher or retailer. Not only does this mean a direct way of promoting any new initiatives to her fans, there is also the possibility for her to even take on sponsors who can promote selected partner content to the network,” muses Wired.

5. We know Rowling has said Pottermore is not another book, but here’s what we would love: A prequel. Perhaps Rowling is throwing us a curveball, discouraging speculation of another book that isn’t quite a book – a novella, maybe, or a collection of short stories that piece together the story of Harry’s parents. Even wilder? A collectively written prequel, directed by Rowling and written via an elaborate pipeline (Pottermore?) of fans’ suggestions. Or perhaps that’s just a book blogger’s dream.

Other guesses have ranged from a real Hogwarts-inspired wizarding school to a Harry Potter universe to a behind-the-scenes documentary. What do you think Pottermore will be?

Husna Haq is a Monitor contributor.

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