jk-rowlingThis letter is also being sent by snailmail to J.K. Rowling’s agents, the Christopher Little Literary Agency.

Dear Ms. Rowling:

For several years, you have adamantly refused to make e-book editions of your Harry Potter series available, citing concerns over promoting piracy. In May, The Bookseller reported that you were considering releasing the Harry Potter novels in e-book form. However, it is now October, and we have heard no further word as to when or if these e-books will be coming out.

I am writing to ask that you release these official e-books, as soon as you possibly can.

To begin with, your prior reluctance to license Harry Potter e-books has not resulted in any reduction in piracy of these books. Indeed, each time a new book in the series was published, a fully scanned e-book edition of it was on BitTorrent within hours.

Indeed, at the moment, if I enter “‘Harry Potter’ e-book torrent” into Google, it returns 690,000 results, in a variety of e-book reader formats. I have little doubt that by now that if I were to download one of these at random, I would find it had been proofed and polished sufficiently to compare favorably to professional quality. One of these in particular claims to be “reference quality”, with “exact layout and page sizes” and “every word on every line”.

Try as you might, you will never eradicate these illegitimate e-books from the Internet. What you should be thinking about doing is supplementing them with authorized versions that would earn you some money, and divert at least some of these e-books’ popularity to legitimate ends.

Over the last few years, e-book reader devices and applications have gained a considerable following—most notably Amazon’s Kindle, which is now being sold in the UK as well as the USA. Millions of people have these devices, and I have little doubt that at least tens and probably hundreds of thousands of them are Harry Potter fans who want to be able to read their favorite books on their favorite devices. (Given how thick your books got by the middle of the series, it is easy to see why they would want to be able to put them on a pocket-sized electronic device!)

These are people who would like to pay you money to be able to read your books electronically. But at the moment, they have no way to do that, so many of them resort to piracy. Perhaps having already purchased your books in paper format, they feel entitled. And all it takes is a few seconds of searching, a minute or so of downloading, and they can have these books right away in the format of their desire.

Many of these downloaders would be delighted to pay you again for an official e-book version of these works. (True, some wouldn’t, but those people would never have paid you no matter what you did.) Indeed, as long as you do not have official Harry Potter e-books available, you will be giving downloaders a reason to feel validated in their decision.

You may be concerned that pirates could crack the DRM on the e-books and add them to the torrents of piracy. And it is true, they certainly could do that. But on the other hand, given the hundreds of thousands of hits that Harry Potter e-book torrents already have, it is hard to see how this could do any further damage. And at least this way some of those e-book readers would be paying you for the experience.

Granted, you are well-off enough that the money is almost certainly of minimal concern to you now. But consider that by refusing to make legitimate versions available, you are driving people who would otherwise be legitimate e-book purchasers to enter the pirate world to get electronic copies of your book.

If you really are opposed to e-book piracy, please commemorate the opening of the newest Harry Potter movie by taking away these readers’ excuse to pirate your books. Make them available for legitimate purchase. Any possible harm would be more than offset by the benefits, and your fans (including myself) would be thrilled.

I hope you (or one of your agents) will reply in a form that I can repost to my e-book blog, TeleRead.org. Either way, I hope you will consider taking the steps I have recommended.

Thank you for your time.


Christopher E. Meadows

Related: New Harry Potter piracy reported: Time for J.K. to allow legal Potter e-books


  1. I make absolutely no whit of apology for acquiring eBooks of HP. I already bought the paper versions for my son and if Ms Rowling and her Publishers refuse to offer the eBook for sale then I personally have no pangs of conscience whatsoever in acquiring them for myself. In addition if I hear one whisper of a whine or moan from them about piracy I will laugh myself silly.

  2. Hate to say it, but whether she offers it for sale or not, i’m not going to buy them now. I downloaded the books the same week of the paper release, and read them then. It’s been some time now that they’ve been out, and if i’d like to read them again the library has more then enough copies.

    Basically: If you don’t want to sell it *when* I might buy it, i’ll find an alternative and not purchase it.

  3. Good letter, though I doubt it will make much difference. She, her agent and her publisher have got to be aware of the thousands of pirated copies already floating in cyberspace, so her fear-of-piracy defense just doesn’t work for me.

    I think the the announcement this past Spring that she was considering e-book release of the HP series was just an attempt by her publisher to deflect all the negativity floating around regarding her distain for e-books.

    I read an interview about about a year ago where she was quoted as saying that e-books just didn’t give the “true experience” that reading paper books could and when she wanted to curl up with a good book, only a paperbook would do.

    Her attitude that SHE hates e-books, so WE should all hate them too just irritates the heck out of me. I mean, since when is her opinion more valid than mine?

    As for me, I read the HP series once. I enjoyed it, but I have no need to read it again…in any form.

  4. Not having the HP series out as ebooks has one great advantage. The HP novels are the smoking gun many of us look for when we go to an ebook site that looks legitimate.

    If the HP books are there, we know that the site is illegal so our publishers and lawyers can take it down and the FBI can go after them.

    That not only protects the publisher and authors; it protects the public because most of these sites are stealing credit card numbers and attaching nasty malware and viruses to the books they sell.

  5. I trust that J.K.Rowling will not publish in screen format. The underlying reason is that she fully understands that her readers enjoy the embodied physical link with the adventures of Harry Potter. As with all Potter merchandise, the physical possession of a paper publication fulfills the fantasy that these stories promise. The disembodied screen book cannot provide such gratification.

  6. It was Rowling’s agent, not Rowling herself, who indicated they were considering something which The Bookseller suggests is e-books.

    In the past, Rowling and her agency have not been fully in sync in press announcements. Rowling has said that her objection to e-books is that she thinks it’s important to “experience the books on paper.” Her agency has said they’re concerned about piracy. Well, yeah, the agency is concerned about the money aspect.

    Rowling is a traditionalist who wrote the Harry Potter manuscripts in longhand. She’s made enough money off of HP already to last her the rest of her life and then some, no matter how much she spends. I don’t think she’s worried about losing a few quid to pirates.

    By the way, Harper Lee and Ray Bradbury have also insisted that their works remain printed on paper. Harper Lee is at least nice about it; Ray Bradbury becomes rather unpleasant at the mention of e-books.

  7. If Rowling was so concerned about how HP was experienced by people, she would not have ever allowed the HP movies to be made by the studios. She did so to make money, that’s always why authors allow their works to be made into movies that are poor representations of the original written word. So the whole “experience the books on paper” doesn’t quite fly with me.

    She is basically allowing her preconceived ideas to influence the release of her books in e-format. That’s up to her since she wrote them. But hey, it’s also just fine with the rest of us as well, since her e-formated books are so cost effective for us since we couldn’t pay for them if we wanted to.

  8. If she does allow ebook editions I hope she doesn’t do something stupid like she’s done with the audiobooks. The only way the audiobooks can be purchased as downloads is through iTunes. They’ve been exclusive to Apple to years with no sign of that changing for years.