Harry Potter books to go digital

Author J. K. Rowling Thursday unveiled the Pottermore.com website that will be used to sell electronic versions her seven Harry Potter books, and to allow fans to network among themselves and with Rowling.

The announcement was made during a ceremony in London Thursday morning. Rowling also explains the plan in a brief YouTube video released Thursday.

Rowling said the Harry Potter ebooks will be available in multiple languages and will be readable on any electronic reading device.

The online store will open in October, she added.

Users can start registering email addresses at the Pottermore.com site today and will be contacted when full registration begins on July 31, the fictional Harry Potter’s birthday.

Once fully registered, fans are eligible to participate in an online challenge from which 1 million people will be chosen to take part in the beta phase of the site. The winning users will be able to suggest site improvements, according to a statement from Rowling’s U.K. publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing.

In its statement, Bloomsbury said it will share in revenue generated from the site. It also noted that Rowling herself owns the rights to the digital version of the Harry Potter books.

The first Potter book appeared in print in 1997, with the seventh published in 2007. Warner Bros. has produced eight films based on the books, with the final movie scheduled to open on July 15 in the U.S.

Bloomsbury owns the print rights to the seven books in the U.K. Scholastic owns the rights to the print version of the books in the U.S.

Rowling said Pottermore.com will also offer an social networking tools to allow fans to share Potter stories with friends.

She said she has amplified the books’ Sorting Hat for the site, where questions asked by the hat to sort new students into their Hogwarts houses will be revealed. In all, Rowling has written 18,000 words of new material on the website about the characters, places and objects.

At the London announcement, Rowling said she has been slowly convinced of the value of digitized books.

“Ebooks are here, and they are here to stay,” she said. “I still love a print and paper book, but I think you can enjoy both.”

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