ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Harry Potter is also getting a high-tech upgrade. This fall, the wildly popular novels will, for the first time, be available as e-books. Until now, they were one of publishing's biggest holdouts.
Today, author JK Rowling today announced a new website called Pottermore, the only place where these e-books will be available. NPR's Margot Adler has that story.
MARGOT ADLER: There are thousands of fan websites for Harry Potter. There are more than a million stories written about him by fans. So what's this new website achieve, and why now? Some argue that Rowling and her publishers waited for e-books until they got as much as they could out of hardback and paperback sales.
Mr. ROD HENWOOD (Chief Executive Officer, Pottermore): And Harry might have been perceived as dropping off.
ADLER: But Rod Henwood, CEO of Pottermore, says it took two years to develop the site, and this is the year when e-books really came into their own.
They also wanted to do this around the time the film series ended. The site will hold a competition and one million fans will get to go on the site before October, when it opens to everyone else in English, German, Spanish and French. Henwood says the early users will not only have their creativity on display...
Mr. HENWOOD: We will learn from those users what they like and what they don't like and we we'll adapt and we'll evolve the site.
ADLER: The creator of one well-known fan web site told me that some fans had been involved with the Pottermore project for a while. But the main thing Pottermore has going for it is Rowling herself. As she says in a promotional video posted today...
(Soundbite of video)
Ms. JK ROWLING (Author): I will be sharing additional information I've been hoarding for years about the world of Harry Potter.
ADLER: Henwood says she has already written at least 18,000 words of new material for the site...
Mr. HENWOOD: Which will grow and grow and grow.
ADLER: There will be more information about the characters. There will be back stories. There will be games, a store and interactive features.
The e-books are supposed to be compatible with the major e-readers like the Kindle, Sony's Reader and the IPad, but the e-books will only be available from the site, not for example from Amazon. Prices will be announced in October.
The website is partnering with Sony, but Bloomsbury, which published the books in The United Kingdom, and Scholastic, which published them here, are also participating with the site.
How will it sit with fans? Francesca Coppa is a founding member of the board of the Organization for Transformative Works, which advocates for all kinds of fan culture. She describes Harry Potter as this generation's Star Wars, bringing more people into fan culture than ever before.
Ms. FRANCESCA COPPA (Founding Board Member, Organization for Transformative Works): Writing fan fiction, making art, knitting sweaters, so this whole world of kind of creativity and sharing that is fandom, a whole generation got access to it for the last 10 years through Harry Potter.
ADLER: Coppa says she loves the title, Pottermore. If fans are about anything, she says, they're about more.
Ms. COPPA: There are channels on YouTube devoted to making the recipes, so how to make the best butter beer, how to make your own chocolate frogs. Right, so all this exists, and to have more, and even if it is JK Rowling's Pottermore, that's great. We always want more, and as long as they understand that this is more, that this site will sit within the world of fans that already exists, like, I think we welcome it.
ADLER: The seven Harry Potter novels have sold more than 450 million copies. The final film opens in a couple weeks. Rowling is thinking about writing an encyclopedia. But the question remains what happens to the series now?
When Rowling published a book approximately every year, fans grew up with the series just like Harry Potter grew up at Hogwarts. With the end of the movies and books, Rowling is clearly trying to reenergize the Harry Potter empire for a digital generation.
Margot Adler, NPR, news.