This story was updated at 3:11 pm
Digital versions of the Harry Potter series will be available for the first time in libraries, thanks to an agreement between digital distributor OverDrive and Pottermore, the online base for Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling.
Needless to say, librarians are thrilled. “I’m very excited,” says Elizabeth Burns, youth services librarian for the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center and SLJ blogger. “Harry Potter fans of all ages have always turned to the library, for print books, audiobooks, creative programming and finding a community of fellow fans. Now they can also do this with the digital versions of the books.”
Under the terms of the agreement, OverDrive will manage hosting and digital fulfillment for libraries for ebook versions of all seven Harry Potter titles, as well as digital audiobooks in English and 20-plus languages to OverDrive’s network of more than 18,000 public and school libraries worldwide.
The ebooks and MP3 audiobooks will be offered initially in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with more languages to follow.
Supported platforms include Sony Reader, Kindle (US only), NOOK, iPhone, iPad, Android devices, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.
Libraries and schools can pre-order Harry Potter titles beginning today through OverDrive. “We’re working with Pottermore to finalize the go-live date,” says OverDrive spokesperson, Michael Lovett.
“I love that Rowling and Sony are including libraries as part of the audience for both ebooks and digital audiobook distribution,” says Burns. “It shows that they realize that libraries do not take away from a books audience; but they grow the audience. It recognizes the important role libraries play in reading culture.”
Christopher Harris, however, has concerns. OverDrive is prohibitively costly for many schools, says Harris, coordinator of the School Library System for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership in upstate New York and a SLJ columnist. Moreover, “If 10 students want to read Harry Potter as an ebook, a school would either need to purchase 10 copies of a book that is already much higher priced than the print version or prepare students for long delays. Given a two-week loan period, he says, student number 10 wouldn’t get their HP until the summer.
Harris also questions if Harry Potter will remain available digitally, given the volatility of ebook licensing deals to date; case in point, Penguin’s recent termination of its contract with OverDrive. ” School libraries that own a print copy of Harry Potter have something; those that go with the digital editions will have access to something as long as the publishers and OverDrive allow it,” he says.
As reported to SLJ sister publication Library Journal, Kristi Chadwick, access services supervisor of C/W MARS Inc. says that the date for both ebooks and audiobooks is April 30, according to Content Reserve. “We have also received word both there and from the OverDrive announcements that the titles will have a five-year lending limit,” says Chadwick.