Get ready for the digital “Harry Potter,” including branded versions of Sony’s portable devices that could appear later this year.
The strength of the Harry Potter brand could help Sony get traction with its Reader devices, which are overshadowed by Amazon.com’s Kindle and even Barnes & Noble’s Nook, not to mention the iPad.
A Harry Potter tie-in could also give a lift to the Android-based Web tablets that Sony plans to release this fall.
Sony is partnering with J.K. Rowling on the first digital versions of the Potter series and a new interactive website called “Pottermore“, which was unveiled today in London.
Pottermore will be a sort of exploratory social network for Harry Potter fans. It will offer immersive, online reading of the Potter books, supplemented with new material written by Rowling and animated features developed by U.K. digital agency TH_NK with input from Sony. It will be free, but have an online store where eBooks and digital audiobooks will be sold.
Here’s an excerpt from the release:
In the new website, the storyline will be brought to life with sumptuous newly-commissioned illustrations and interactive ‘Moments’ through which you can navigate, starting with the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone. On entering, you choose a magic username and begin your experience. As you move through the chapters, you can read and share exclusive writing from J.K. Rowling, and, just as Harry joins Hogwarts, so can you. You visit Diagon Alley, get sorted into a house, cast spells and mix potions to help your house compete for the House Cup.
The site’s going to conduct a limited beta test starting July 31 and open to everyone in October. The first million people to register on July 31 will get early access during the beta period “and help put final touches to the experience.” The site was accepting early email signups today until it was overwhelmed by visitors.
Rowling’s quote in the release:
“I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation. I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have. Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment — Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.”
At first I wondered if the site would be connected somehow to Sony’s Playstation Network or Sony Online Entertainment sites, but a spokeswoman said they aren’t connected to Pottermore.
Sony will, however, be releasing new products tied to the site.
When I asked if that means Sony will produce a special Pottermore version of its Reader digital book, spokeswoman Lisa Gephardt was encouraging.
“I cannot confirm that, but that might be a logical asusmption to make,” she said.
How about a Pottermore reading application for Sony’s upcoming handheld Vita game device?
“I think you are probably much more along the lines that we’re thinking of,” she said.
Details of any Harry Potter gadgets will come later — probably closer to the October launch of Pottermore, which is probably when we’ll also hear about Sony’s new tablets.
For now, Sony is announcing only the partnership.
“We have committed to offering Sony products and services to Pottermore customers,” she said.
“Today was really just the announcement of the relationship. It’s going to really promote reading to a whole new generation of readers.”
Here’s Rowling’s announcement video, followed by a few more screenshots: