Harry Potter adventures go on sale in e-book form

NEW YORK - When the Harry Potter books went on sale in electronic form Tuesday, it was as if Harry himself had cast the “Alohomora’’ spell on them - the one that unlocks doors.

In a break with industry practices, the books aren’t locked down by encryption, which means consumers can move them between devices and read them anywhere they like.


If Pottermore, J.K. Rowling’s new Web store, proves a success, it could provide a model for other authors and publishers and undermine the clout of Inc., which dominates e-book sales.

“I think it’s a very large crack in a dam that’s going to collapse in the next nine to 12 months,’’ said Matteo Berlucchi, chief executive of a British-based online bookstore, aNobii.

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E-books from major publishers are sold in encrypted form today. The text of a book is scrambled so that only authorized devices and software can read it. For instance, a book bought from Amazon can be read only on the company’s Kindle e-readers and on its Kindle applications for smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It can’t be read on Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-readers.

Publishers insist on encryption in the form of “Digital Rights Management,’’ or DRM because they believe it stops piracy. It also helps e-book retailers like Amazon defend their business models.

But when Rowling fans buy a book from Pottermore, they can download it in a variety of formats, including one that is not protected by DRM. They can be read by a wide variety of applications and devices. These books can be purchased once and then passed around.


There’s another reason Pottermore is going DRM-free. It wants to “own’’ the relationship with the customers rather than have them go to other retailers.

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