Pottermore. A little over a week ago, nobody had ever heard the word before. Now, every Muggle with a hint of love for the Harry Potter series of books can't stop talking about it.
Author J.K. Rowling sparked the whispers by releasing a teaser page and countdown last week. Speculation was rampant — but publisher Scholastic was adamant that it was not a new book. Over on Ecorazzi, I hinted that it could be a digital version of the long-awaited Harry Potter encyclopedia that Rowling was eager to put together.
Turns out I guessed correctly, but the project is much more ambitious than any of us could have imagined.
“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,” Rowling said of Pottermore in a statement. “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.”
According to The Leaky Cauldron, Rowling has already added more than 18,000 new words about the Harry Potter universe to the site, but that is only “1/3 of what she has planned.” Rowling also says a physical encyclopedia is possible one day, but is not currently on the radar.
Pottermore is free to access, but will offer the long-awaited ebook versions of the Harry Potter series for sale. What's of interest to me is whether or not the 45-year-old will carry through on her original plans to use this encyclopedia as a means to benefit charities.
Back in 2008, when she battled (and ultimately won) for an injunction against the publication of a third-party Harry Potter encyclopedia, Rowling argued that allowing such a work would impact her charitable intentions.
"Warner Bros and Rowling argue that the publication of the Lexicon infringes Rowling’s copyright and that she has openly and repeatedly expressed her interest in publishing an encyclopedia covering all seven of the Harry Potter books, whose profits would go to charity.”
In fact, Rowling's desire to have a charitable encyclopedia stretches back to 2000, when she said in a chat interview on AOL: "If there's ever an eighth [book], it will be because ten years down the line I had a burning desire to do just one more, but I don't presently think that will happen, However, I think I might write a kind of Harry Potter Encyclopaedia & give the royalties to charity so ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!"
It should be noted that J.K. has been very generous with her wealth (earning an estimated $1.6 million every three days!) in support of organizations linked to poverty, multiple sclerosis, children's welfare and illiteracy. Three books that she has written for charity — "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" — have raised almost $30 million for various initiatives.
“You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently," she said in an interview.
So, don't be surprised if this latest reveal of the HP world does something similar. Registration for "Pottermore" opens on July 31.
MNN homepage photo: Warner Bros.