Why JK Rowling's empire is lowering the drawbridge

The renowned author's digital publishing house, Pottermore, has retained a monopoly on the sale of Harry Potter e-books and audio titles ever since its launch. But times they are a-changing, and the company's strategy is undergoing seismic shifts.

Dan Hallman/Invision/AP/File
J.K. Rowling poses for a photo at an appearance at The David H. Koch Theater in New York, Oct.16, 2012.

Pottermore, the digital publisher of JK Rowling’s works, is embracing global giants such as Apple and Amazon, as it morphs its shape in the hunt for bigger profits.

It was in September, 2015, that everything changed, when Pottermore, which is wholly owned by Ms. Rowling, ended its partnership with Sony.

Since the demise of that relationship, Pottermore has axed its interactive features and sought instead to focus on the sale of Harry Potter e-books and audio books, permitting the sale of these products by titans such as Google and WH Smith.

“This is an exciting new chapter for Pottermore,” said the company’s chief executive Susan Jurevics, according to The Scotsman. “We are thrilled by the success we have had in recent months as we have embarked upon our new strategy, bringing JK Rowling’s much-loved characters to a larger international audience.” 

When Pottermore was first launched in 2012, acting as sole distributor of Harry Potter e-books, it was something of a revolution in the publishing world, allowing Rowling to circumvent traditional models and sell directly to her fans.

The site is more than a mere distributor, however, also providing Harry Potter news and features, as well as exclusive new pieces by the author herself.

But as the association with Sony faded, there was a need to refocus. That affiliation had provided £24.5 million (about $35.2 million) in 2014 alone.

That sum provided the bulk of its £31.8 million (about $45.7 million) of revenue for that year, which fell to a mere £7 million (about $10.1 million) in 2015, forcing the company to shed 25 percent of its workforce and suffer losses of £6 million (about $8.6 million).

In the light of this less favorable economic fortune, Pottermore decided to release its stranglehold on Harry Potter’s digital world.

The first deal to be struck was with Apple, in October, and all seven books flooded onto the iBooks platform. Other agreements followed, and more are in the works.

So, while there is still some ground to claw back if the company wants to regain the financial highs of 2014, the new strategy has already proved fruitful, doubling sales in three months.

In fact, more copies were snapped up in the three months leading up to Christmas than in the entire preceding 12 month period, reported The Telegraph. 

So gleeful is the company that it “forecasts all-time record annual sales” for this financial year.

Indeed, more surprises are in store, with the company hinting at a “significant” announcement in the coming weeks, as it prepares to “unveil a number of new commercial ventures.”

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