The Final Straw
There are so many controversies in the HP fandom these days, I can scarcely stay abreast of them! While our collective hackles are still raised about Cursed Child, Jo has made another announcement: the release of three e-books on Pottermore containing additional writing about the [w]izarding [w]orld, priced at $2.99 apiece. Almost all of the information will be prior writing from Pottermore, but there will be a few new entries to entice fans to buy them.
*takes deep calming breaths*
I have defended Jo Rowling for years. In fact, longtime readers may remember that in mid-2012 I published an opinion piece called “Are We Victims?” that argued that Jo/WB/Sony have every right to milk the HP franchise for every Knut they can get. I was okay with the obscenely overpriced DVD box sets and with Book of Spells requiring a zillion Play[S]tation toys I didn’t have. I was even okay with Cursed Child being a play that I would have to wait over a year to see. I did not think I was entitled to any of these things, however much I wanted them.
With that background, one might expect me to once again take a stand against the horde of fans complaining. But no. This $2.99 cash grab is the final straw, and Jo has just crossed the line to where I can no longer support her.
When Pottermore was announced in 2011, it was presented as a “thank you” to the fans. In the original announcement, Jo said, “I wanted to give something back to the fans [who] have followed Harry so devotedly over the years.” Cue the feels!
Now, Pottermore may not have lived up to its promise[ since] fans who were around surely remember the year of kvetching that following the website’s launch. While Jo’s additional writing was appreciated, it would have been appreciated more if a continuity editor had been involved. But it was free, so we either engaged with Pottermore or we didn’t, but there was no doubt that it was Jo giving us something as gratitude for our loyal support.
So it rubs me all kinds of wrong ways that Jo now wants to take the content that was meant to be “giving back to the fans,” and put it behind a paywall to support the financially flailing Pottermore. If we were getting a print book that we can hold in our hands and put on the bookshelf, that would be fine – that is value added, so I’d pay the three dollars each. If it were lots and lots of original content, I might grumble, but I would still shell out the money.
But let’s look at the contents. Out of the eight stories mentioned for Power, Politics and Heroism, Hardship, seven of those are already on Pottermore (McGonagall, Trelawney, Lupin, Kettleburn, Umbridge, Azkaban, Ministers) – only Slughorn’s story would be new. Same applies to the Unreliable Guide to Hogwarts – we already got the entries on the Hogwarts Express, [t]he Lake, Peeves, the Chamber of Secrets, and so on.
So Rowling is asking fans to shell out nine dollars total for two or three new stories… which should have appeared on Pottermore in the first place if the site [had] lived up to its promise. There is the question of whether the entries being bundled into the e-books will still be available on Pottermore, but it doesn’t matter. There is also the question of whether this move lifts the stories out of apocrypha into canon, but I don’t think so because I don’t see why something becomes more canonical if we paid for it. We used to read these things on a screen on Pottermore… and now we’re expected to still read them on a screen, but pay nine dollars for the privilege.
Well, sorry, Jo, but no thank you. I am aware that I am not entitled to anything from my favorite authors. However, when said author purports to give me a gift of bonus content and then years later asks that I pay for it, that is simply obnoxious. So I will not be buying these e-books on principle – both because I have never bought an e-book in my life and because I refuse to pay for something that was promised to be free. It is a sad state of affairs when I won’t be buying new Harry Potter content when it’s available, but that is what it’s come to.
I’m aware that my boycott won’t matter in the slightest to Jo or Pottermore, so you can forego any “JKR doesn’t need your $9!” comments. It won’t matter to them, but it’ll matter to me because I don’t want to support something I consider a personal affront. Same reason I never saw the HP movies more than once in a theater and stopped buying the DVDs.
I’m not calling for a fandom-wide boycott, because that would be silly and (I’m guessing) ineffectual. In fact, I’m happy if others don’t boycott, because I still intend to read these stories through some ill-gotten means or other. But this one-time Rowling acolyte cannot defend her anymore in good conscience. And it saddens me incredibly because I am still a huge fan… but as I have been expounding since I began my “controversial columnist” tenure here, just because we’re fans doesn’t mean we can’t be critical.