Pottermore sells £1 million in three days; Rowling instructs minions ‘just throw it on the pile’
So: Harry Potter, eh? We’re all pretty much done with that, right? I mean, seven of the bestselling books of the last 20 years, the highest grossing film series of all time, terrifying fans on Twitter… it’s all due a tailing off any time now, surely. There’s only so many people left in the world who haven’t read it, after all, and we can only produce new people at a rate of seven per second.
Well, if that tailing off is happening any time soon, the now-teenaged series is going for one last big blow-out before it has to settle down into a life of sensible backlist normality. Charles Redmayne, chief executive of Pottermore, revealed last night that in the three days following its exclusive digital publication of J.K. Rowling’s seven novels, the site sold over £1 million worth of e-books. This figure becomes even more impressive when you factor in the e-book editions’ having covers that look like the ‘sorry your owl just died’ cards you’d find at the world’s most enchanted Esso garage.
Yes, despite continuing to read their print equivalents ad infinitum (N.B. – Latin, not a spell), it seems that a significant number of Potter fans were determined to re-experience the magic (ho ho! Fun with words!) in glorious Kindlevision. To put that number into perspective, the series took in around £4 million in the UK in the entirety of 2011, meaning that in three days online the novels have made as much money worldwide as they did in the UK in any given three month period from last year. This, needless to say, is mental.
You’ll try to explain away this raging success. You’ll try to rationalise it somehow. Maybe you’ll think to yourself that the Kindle is having the same effect on children’s books as it is for erotica, with the inability of others to spy on your choice of book prompting readers to take chances on titles they’d be too embarrassed to be seen reading in public (and I know what you’re thinking: ‘God, Chris, shut up about all the similarities between Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey just for one goddamn second already! We get it!’) Then you’ll remember that no, this is Harry Potter, and that anybody who would feel judged for reading it in public has bigger things to worry about.
So you’ll try to scrape together some other reason that sales could be so high for a series whose last new piece of prose was written five years ago. But eventually, you’ll realise it’s just no use, and you’re left with no option but to acknowledge Redmayne’s simple explanation: ‘Everything that Harry Potter does surpasses expectations.’ Yeah, well, no one likes an overachiever, so nyeh.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.