Harry Potter is going to further destroy Sony.
As I stated from the beginning, Sony’s sponsorship of the Pottermore site came with the contingency that Sony had an opening exclusive for the Harry Potter books.
Now everyone has had to agree — although Rowling’s representatives claim this is not true.
I’ll call Rowling’s bluff.
Sony didn’t pony up a lot of money just to stand next to her and Harry Potter.
What no one has yet thought about is how this can all be a gigantic disaster with worse PR fallout that the HP TouchPad fiasco.
Let me remind people in the tech world of what a phenomenon Harry Potter has been.
Those are children and their parents lined up at bookstores at midnight to buy a Harry Potter book! Around the world.
Harry Potter has been to books what Apple has been to tech: producing huge lines on debut day.
But wait. Read again those three words up there: “Those are children.”
Although the original children who began with the first book of Harry Potter are now young adults, there are still lots of children worldwide who are Potter fans.
And Sony’s exclusive for the Harry Potter books is aimed squarely at those children — and their parents.
Further, let me again emphasize:
It’s too easy to forget what a phenomenon her books have been. The final volume was the fastest-selling book in all of publishing history.
This demand still exists today.
Rowling’s Pottermore site was swamped with requests to join on day one. Over a million people clamored to get in. How many couldn’t even raise the website because of unanticipated bandwidth problems?
And that is what Sony is facing when it introduces its Harry Potter exclusive.
Sony has done other theme Readers before. Here’s one for James Bond:
That’s unimaginative and tatty, but points to what a Harry Potter exclusive Reader will have:
1) At least one special cover
2) Perhaps even a special color Reader to match
The Harry Potter exclusive cannot be like past ones. It has to impress and satisfy fans. It has to, in fact, be a Collector’s Edition. Something very, very special.
I have no idea what kind of cover it will have. In her Potter series, Rowling mentions a lot of in-story books. One, or even more, of those could be chosen. Or Rowling could demand something different (all of this happens with Rowling’s approval, as does anything Harry Potter-related).
Here are some examples of other Harry Potter collections issued by others:
Sony’s Reader exclusive will have to be in that vein.
And the looming disaster that Sony faces is not having enough of these for buyers at Christmas.
Back in 1983, Cabbage Patch dolls were the hot holiday gift. See this 1983 Nightline report about that phenomenon. There were actual riots by parents who didn’t want to disappoint their children!
Given that even the Pottermore site was overwhelmed by demand, Sony can expect its online Sony Store to sink under demand too. And brick and mortar stores will clamor for this Reader because it represent a major turning point in the eBook market.
I don’t think Sony will have enough of them ready to go.
Barnes & Noble didn’t have enough of the original Nook ready to go. That shortfall led to obscene listings like this on eBay:
Will parents have to resort to extortion-like prices to get one?
Sony has to understand clearly that the desires of children are at stake here.
Disappointing a child at Christmas time is not something a parent is likely to forget — or forgive.
So I hope for Sony’s sake they have been running their factory for the Harry Potter exclusive at full blast, even if they have to dump a lot of them on Woot! in March 2012.