Business

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.

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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 Amazon.com 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.

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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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