Although they won’t be able to sell the books directly, they will be directing buyers to the Pottermore site and the ebooks will be compatible with their devices/apps. This is the kind of compromise that would, almost certainly, never wash with any other author. J.K Rowling and her magical universe certainly has the power to command whatever deals she wants from retailers, but I don’t expect them to be sending their traffic and sales to many other authors or publishers in the near future.
Even The Hunger Games, which has now sold 36.5 million print copies and surpassed the Twilight movie in terms of ticket sales for the first installment of the adaption, will never be able to replicate the Pottermore effect.
The only way authors of the future will be able to do this is by keeping all the digital content rights to themselves from the beginning of the publishing process. As you can imagine, not many publishers will be keen on this idea. As Neil Blair, J.K Rowling’s agent and the man behind her own digital deals, said (and I reported here):
Digital rights are the biggest sticking point in contract negotiations, but when he asks publishers what they plan to do with those rights they usually don’t have an answer.
Now matter how savvy or creative publishers, authors and agents get in terms of selling digital content over the next few years, it seems unlikely any will be able to create the industry shake-up the Rowling has today. I certainly don’t expect to see two of the biggest book retailers handing their customers to other websites without some seriously magical intervention.