June 24, 2011
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The cut-up books in J. K. Rowling’s announcement for the Pottermore site are its strongest point. A very clever creation, exactly in the right spirit, and itself an interesting commentary on the electronic book.

The careful, cautious script is competent and reveals little. That jarring emphasis on safe is disturbing, since going out of the way to assure viewers that Pottermore is safe raises fears that safety should be a concern. What would Harry or Hermione think? In any case, I can’t imagine how any site that permits interaction between users could be completely “safe” from bullies, seducers, mean kids, or people who express distressing ideas.

Most of the Web discussion I’ve seen so far concerns the advisability of the Sony branding. I’m not wild about the logo bar, which wastes a lot of pixels, and I’m not a big fan of the Pottermore logo, though the film logo was wrong is a different dimension and it’s turned out fine. The social dynamics of the stealth launch seem ghastly, though: it’s one thing to recreate schoolyard jealousies when rolling out a new enterprise tool, but I’m not sure you want to lock some of your fans out of Pottermore for three months. A lot of those fans really are in the schoolyard and they know how to kick and scratch, and I’d be worried that they might get angry with waiting and decide you’re not going to be cool anymore. Alienating bookstores strikes me as awkward and unnecessary; surely Sony can find some way to keep these titles away from Amazon without annoying the channel, and even if you think bookselling are as aged and feeble as house elves, it costs little to be nice and you never know.