JK Rowling recently released all of the titles in her Harry Potter franchise as ebooks. Simultaneously, in all formats for all platforms. The ebooks are available exclusively through Rowling’s Pottermore website.
Of course, Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise is so lucrative that she can dictate terms with just about all the vendors, but simultaneous release on all formats and platforms isn’t the only interesting thing Rowling has done. Each title is available without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions of any kind (although each title will be watermarked). Customers can send the titles they purchase to any device they like. Customers can also download eight digital copies of each title they purchase; either for use on another device, or—wait for it—sharing with up to seven friends. Imagine that.
That sharing bit is so obvious—and costs virtually nothing—but few if any publishers are doing it. Instead, the corporate publishers are either refusing to sell ebooks to libraries (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster) or charging outrageous rates (Random House).
Matthew Ingram, writing for GigaOm, cites Charlie Redmayne—who left HarperCollins to run Pottermore for Rowling—who demonstrates just how far ahead of the publishing pack he is:
“My view is that the one thing we should learn from the music industry, is that one of the best ways of fighting back against piracy is making content available to consumers at a platform they want to purchase it on, and at a price they are willing to pay, and if you do that most people will instinctively want to buy it.”
Meanwhile, the corporate publishers and Apple are under the gun for employing the agency model in pricing ebooks. In an agency model, the publisher sets the price of an ebook and the retailer takes a percentage of that. It’s the only really fair way to price ebooks and, as Mark Coker of Smashwords—a large aggregator/distributor of independent book publishing—writes, it’s actually driving down the price of ebooks.