Looks like JK Rowling had the last laugh.
In the hours leading up to the anticipated announcement, scores of news organizations published “leaked” reports revealing that Pottermore would be an online Harry Potter game and global treasure hunt.
So it was an unexpected surprise today when Ms. Rowling revealed the true nature of Pottermore: Pottermore is a free, collaborative website that will offer readers an online reading experience with extensive new material about the world of Potter. The site will launch in October in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. (More languages will eventually follow.)
“I’m thrilled to say I’m now in a position to give you something unique: an online reading experience unlike any other. It’s called Pottermore,” Rowling said in her YouTube announcement. “Pottermore will be where fans of any age can share, participate in, and rediscover stories…. I’ll be joining in, too, because I’ll be sharing additional information I’ve been hoarding for years about the world of Harry Potter.”
Fans of all ages will be able to enter a virtual world they’ve been imagining for years. In the online Potter universe, readers will choose a magical username, be sorted into a Hogwarts house just as Harry was in the books, choose wands, experience life at Hogwarts, and journey through Harry’s adventures as they play games, cast spells, mix potions, and collect points. For now, the website will be limited to the first Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.”
The part muggles will go mad for? The as-yet unpublished extra material Rowling will share about the people, places, and plots she’s created. And there’s a lot of it. “[T]he fresh Potter background from the author already stretches to 18,000 words, with more to come,” reported The Guardian, which attended Rowling’s London press conference Thursday morning.
It seems Rowling is brimming with new details that’ll round out characters and enrich Harry’s story: how the Dursleys met, why Professor McGonagall may be sympathetic to Harry (hint: as a young woman, she once loved a muggle), background on the Hogwarts houses, and new information on wand wood.
There’s more: Pottermore will also be the only place where Rowling will release Harry Potter e-books (which we guessed in a previous Pottermore blog). After refusing to release her beloved novels as e-books for years, Rowling is finally taking the digital plunge – but doing it her way. Pottermore will likely include an online store that will bypass traditional e-book sellers to sell Harry Potter e-books directly to readers.
“[It will be] the exclusive place to purchase digital audio books and e-books of the Harry Potter series,” Rowling said in her YouTube announcement.
There will be no charge to access the site. “This is free,” Rowling added in her London press conference. “You don't have to pay to get extra materials, you don't have to buy a single thing. That was really important to me. This was about the 'give-back'.”
(Rowling has sold more than 450 million copies of the Potter books worldwide, making her one of the richest women alive.)
Although Pottermore doesn't officially launch until October, Rowling said a lucky few (we’ve heard the lucky few will actually be the first million users) can enter early, on July 31 – Harry Potter’s birthday. (Fans can submit their email addresses on Pottermore.com now, asking to be contacted by the site when registration opens July 31.)
“Simply follow the owl,” Rowling said at the end of the announcement, suggesting another trick up her sleeve, a game to determine who enters first. “Good luck.”
“Pottermore,” wrote The Guardian, “will be the only way fans will be able to get fresh material from Rowling about Harry's world. ‘I'm pretty sure I'm done on the novel front,’ [Rowling] said.’”
Even so, Potter fans can rejoice: It’s been 13 years since the first book appeared and even though the seventh book and eighth film have now been completed, Harry Potter lives on. Pottermore is Rowling’s secret potion to keep Harry and his wizarding world – not to mention readers’ imaginations – alive.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.