It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…
Pottermore. Or maybe Potter more more more, because, since it’s launch a month ago, Pottermore, the flagship e-book store of the Harry Potter book series written by J.K.Rowling has sold more books than forecast, with the latest sales figures topping £3m, according to industry insider, The Bookseller. Now, you don’t have to be a wizard to work out that, naturally, a lot of the success of the website is down to the books. Since they were first published, more than 400 million of the Harry Potter series books have been sold, with translations into 67 languages with millions of children, like my daughter, obsessed with wands, witches and the prospect that one day they might invent a real invisibility cloak (there’s always hope.) Of course, another part of the Pottermore success is down to the website itself. It’s interactive! You have to register! You can make potions on it, have wizard duels on there and even, even, be sorted in your own Hogwarts house (can I be Gryffindor? Please?). But of course, as well as the great branding, engaging writing and good-old fashioned wizardry plots, the other element of its success is all together more modern, namely the ebook. All the books sold on the Pottermore site have been in digital form, and it’s this ease and speed at which people can purchase them, together with the anonymity the medium provides, which has helped sales enormously. The books have been sold as bundles and heavily discounted, which of course all helps, but it’s success mirrors a wider trend which has been sweeping the publishing industry. According to latest figures in The Telegraph last week, sales of ebooks quadrupled last year, while sales of paper novels over the same period dropped by a staggering 12.5 million in the UK alone. What does this say about the future? Are we witnessing the decline of the paper book? Many readers are polarised by this, stating that nothing can replace the feeling of the page between the fingers and the relaxation that it brings. Certainly, I know from experience that reading a book can quite literally reduce your heart rate (mine drops to around 50bpm!). Some people claim that an eReader cannot have this same calming effect, particularly if that eReader is, for example, an iPad where the temptation of checking your inbox or surfing the web is only a fingertouch away.
The publishing industry it is true, is nervous about the future of books. But this is perhaps due to the fact that they are suffering from a lack of ability to embrace change? Look at LPs and CDs, now all but replaced by the downloading of music to MP3s and iPods. And if you’ve ever seen the Oscar-winning film The Artist, you’ll know what happened when the talkies were introduced. Stand in the way of change and it may just run you over, whatever industry you are in. But change should reflect the past, and if the past is a paper novel, then so be it. The answer, I think, is to make room for both formats in a reader’s bookshelf, and the sooner we embrace this fact, the sooner the industry will move on and everyone will benefit, with the bottom line meaning more books will be available, helping more people to read. Now, whether it’s Pottermore or not, that’s a little sprinkling of magic we’d all welcome.
What do you think of ebooks? Are they the way forward? Do you think paper novels have had their day? Or is there room for both? Let me know.
**Out on Wednesday: “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author. This week it’s all about my runner-up prize in a short story competition…**