Review: J.K. Rowling’s published Harvard commencement speech, Very Good Lives

Copyright AP/ via the Guardian

Copyright AP/ via the Guardian

This week, J.K. Rowling’s famed 2008 Harvard University Commencement Address will be published in book form by Little, Brown under the title, Very Good Lives.

The small book features beautiful illustrations (by artist Joel Holland) on every page, accompanying the text. In the speech, the Harry Potter author addresses two universal themes important to her: failure and imagination — specifically, the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination.

vgljkrSince she gave the speech in 2008, it has been celebrated by her legions of fans, commencement address aficionados, as well as everyday people looking for inspiration. The speech offers powerful words of advice to virtually everyone, but especially students and young people. The book’s title borrows from a quote from Roman philosopher Seneca, which J.K. Rowling used to conclude the speech: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what what matters.” Rowling wished the audience “very good lives” at the end.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for students this graduation season or anyone seeking moral inspiration, Very Good Lives is the answer. The book is available in bookstores everywhere Tuesday. It’s for a good cause too: 80% of the proceeds benefit J.K. Rowling’s charity, Lumos, which aims to transform the lives of children in institutions all over the world, while the rest goes to university-wide financial aid at Harvard University.

Our Favorite Quotes from the Speech:

1. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

2. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

3. If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change.

 

4. One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

5. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Watch the video footage of J.K. Rowling delivering the commencement address:

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Cover revealed for fully Illustrated version of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’

The publishers of Harry Potter revealed today the cover for the fully-illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Illustrated by award-winning artist Jim Kay, the cover features the Hogwarts Express stationed at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. With owls flying overhead, a young Harry Potter stands in the corner of the picture, in awe of the scene around him.

The U.K. cover for the book, to be published by Bloomsbury:

Kay_Bloomsbury

U.S. Harry Potter publisher Scholastic simultaneously released their version of the cover, donning the iconic logo of the Harry Potter brand.

HarryPotterJimKay_resize

The first ever illustrated Harry Potter book will hit store shelves around the globe this year on October 15th. Preorder the edition from Bloomsbury here and Scholastic here.

New cover for Chamber of Secrets unveiled

Today at Book Expo America, the new cover for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was unveiled.

Check out the cover below (click for full size):

Courtesy of Scholastic

The scene depicted on the cover is that in which Harry flown to the Burrow by the Weasleys in their Ford Anglia. As with the first cover, it was designed by award winning artist Kazu Kibuishi. Our friends at Hypable caught up with Kibuishi to talk about the covers at Book Expo America, and you can read their interview with him here.

In February, it was announced that Scholastic would be releasing new covers of the Harry Potter series in honor of the 15th anniversary of the first book’s US release. With this initial announcement, a new version of the first book’s cover was unveiled (view it here).

The new paperback editions of the books will be released on August 27th. The remaining covers will be revealed over the summer.

An Exclusive Interview with Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne: Part 2

Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne

Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne

Last week we shared with you part one of our exclusive interview with Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne. In the second and final part of the interview, Charlie shares his thoughts on the feedback of Pottermore, bringing Pottermore into new territories, and more.

Charlie has been CEO of Pottermore since November 2011 and has been responsible for the transition of Pottermore from beta to launch. Redmayne oversaw the launch of Pottermore.com in April 2012, and the launch of the groundbreaking Pottermore Shop in March 2012.

Pottermore News (PN): What do you view as your greatest accomplishment as CEO of Pottermore?

Charlie Redmayne (CR): When I arrived at Pottermore, there were some challenges in terms of getting the site live and out of beta. The challenges for the team at that time was that the sea of popularity, the demand for the site and the amount of time people were spending on it meant that there was a huge challenge to create a platform that could actually deliver on that promise.

So, I think that coming in and turning that situation around and getting the site up and running and working was probably the biggest challenge that I faced and also the biggest achievement.

The other thing I’ve done, and again fans of Pottermore probably won’t see any of this, but I have spent a lot of time recruiting some of the smartest people in digital publishing to work at Pottermore. There is a really brilliant team and they’re extraordinarily nice people and huge fans of Harry Potter and they are also brilliant at what they do.

I hope that you see the site grow and the different platform experiences roll out. You will see the quality of their work because they are an extraordinary group.

So, [my greatest accomplishment] is getting the platform up and running and the site up and running, along with recruiting a passionate, talented, and loyal team to deliver J.K. Rowling’s vision.

PN: What has been the hardest part about working on Pottermore? What has caused you the most stress?

CR: The platform concerns that had delayed launch [was the hardest part]. There was an immense amount of demand by people because a promise had been made, and the promise had been made by J.K. Rowling. We had to deliver on that and that was quite stressful. But we got there and we delivered it.

We saw what was being published and said on social media and people were rightly pushing and pushing and pushing. That created quite a lot of pressure. We went as fast as we could, but we wanted to make sure that when we launched, we launched something that was a really high quality product.

PN: Were you a Harry Potter fan before becoming CEO of Pottermore?

CR: I’m very old – I’m 46 years old – so I discovered Harry Potter by reading it to my children. My children are huge Harry Potter fans of the books I read to the them. I read the first few books, then they read them themselves as they grew older.  I was a fan,but it was through reading those stories to my kids that I got into it.

PN: What will we be seeing from Pottermore this year?

CR: We will be seeing more content to engage with and new developments with the site. We will see more books rolling out. I hope we are getting faster and better at doing that. I think that some of the feedback we got on the last rollout was that it was great and people got it before Christmas and weren’t expecting it.

At the same time, there was a little bit of disappointment in some areas of how much there was [in the release]. I think we need to strike the balance. We work very hard to make sure what we produce is really good. We’re working with an extraordinarily creative person in terms of J.K. Rowling. We need to make sure we get it right. There will be much more stuff coming out onto the site.

We’ll also be rolling out into more territories. At the moment we’re in English, both in the U.S. and U.K., French, Italian, German and Spanish. The site will be rolling out in Japanese. At the moment only the Shop’s in Japanese. We’ll also be rolling out in South Korea and Brazil. Those I can guarantee, but we may be rolling out into more countries as well.

Otherwise, you will see [the e-books in other languages.] They may not have their own shop but there will definitely be shops for Korea and Brazil. In some of the other territories, we’re going to make the ebooks available from the existing stores. You will see new digital platforms – the Book of Spells on PlayStation is just the beginning of what we’ll do in Playstation and other platforms.

[All of the different experiences will be about] experiencing Pottermore on all the platforms and access for us to do so. [Pottermore] will continually evolve. One of the great privileges of running a digital business is that we’ll be talking about things next year which we didn’t even know we’re going to exist this year. We need to react to those opportunities and make sure we stay at the forefront of what we’re doing.

PN: Will the Pottermore Shop be increasing it’s selection this year?

CR: Yes – absolutely. At the moment we’re selling the e-books and digital audio. We just made the products from the Warner Bros. store available too through an affiliate relationship. I hope that we’ll be bringing in some enhanced content.  That’s not a promise, but we’re hoping to do that.

We will be making e-books available in other languages. We will, I hope, be also making other products and “experiences” to make the Harry Potter world available from the Pottermore Shop. That’s what our plan is, and I hope you’ll be seeing that over the coming months.

PN: Has feedback for Pottermore exceeded your expectations?

CR: Feedback on the Shop has certainly exceeded my expectations. From the publishing industry perspective, it is seen as something that has broken the mold and really changed publishing.

I have also been delighted by the number of fans that found the purchasing experience very easy. They like the fact that we’ve gone with a light-touch DRM, in terms of watermarking, which meant we [didn’t push] any device and gave them the freedom of having to read the books on any device. On the experience side, the feedback has been great. People love Pottermore, but I know there’s also been some criticism. We need to react to that and keep getting better and better, and I promise you we will strive to do that.

It’s a big and complex piece of technology, and we work very hard to make it as good as it can be. When I came in and when we launched, I said it’s pretty good, but it will be brilliant. I want to make sure before we start really pushing this out, that it really is brilliant. Frankly, the books were brilliant, the films were brilliant and Pottermore must always be brilliant.

PN: What is your response to critics of Pottermore who say Pottermore has no value?

CR: Obviously it’s not for everybody. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, then I wouldn’t think it does have value. But, if the extraordinary way that J.K. Rowling wrote those books and the magical world she created in her mind and the extra content that has come out of that and the product that has started rolling out with things like Playstation and other platforms – then I think it has immense value.

I think it is changing the mold of publishing. It is what digital publishing will become, and that it’s certainly what people aspire to be now, I think Pottermore is seen as a real leader. I hope it is something that Harry Potter fans will have a fabulous time engaging with on all different things that we do.

We built an e-book store that has finally made the e-books available and enabled people to read them and I think that that has had significant value. I think it will become a platform that will bring new fans of Harry Potter into the franchise, which is fantastic to have new kids discovering Harry Potter for the first time. It certainly has immense value to the publishers who publish the books, to Warner Bros. who made the films, and to Universal, who created the theme parks because there are millions of Harry Potter fans using Pottermore who could become their customers. So from a business perspective, it also has immense value.

But ultimately, what it was always meant to be, was J.K. Rowling giving something back to her fans. Running a website that has so many millions of people using it for free is an immensely expensive undertaking and I hope it does have value because it is certainly something that J.K. Rowling is investing a huge amount of time and money in making sure it happens. Nothing like this has ever been done before and it is a groundbreaking adventure.

We hope you have enjoyed this exclusive interview from Pottermore News. It was a pleasure interviewing Charlie and it has been great sharing it with our readers.

Official J.K. Rowling and ‘The Casual Vacancy’ Facebook pages launched

 

 

The official Facebook pages for J.K. Rowling and The Casual Vacancy have been launched with the same excitement as when Rowling joined Twitter.

J.K. Rowling’s page is really not much (come on, did you expect more?). It consists mostly of a timeline of important events in her life and in the history of Harry Potter, much like her own website. There’s not much other than that, which makes us suspect that her Facebook page will turn out to be like her Twitter, with her posting on rare occasions with small, dull posts. But, who knows?! She might surprise us this time…

The Facebook page for The Casual Vacancy is a little more exciting. They’ve been sharing news about the book including Rowling’s publicity events and other interviews relating to the book. They’ve also been posting photos of promotional advertisements for the book from all around the world. You can have a look at them here.

Interestingly, they answered a few questions whenever they announced that J.K. Rowling’s event at the Southbank Center this Thursday would be live-streamed. They explained that the live stream will last approximately two hours from 7:00pm to 9:00pm BST (2:00-4:00pm EST). It will also be available to watch afterwards.

Even though they were just widely discovered today, they have been around for awhile. J.K. Rowling’s page launched in April 2012, while The Casual Vacancy‘s page has been up since September.

Brazil publishers of ‘The Casual Vacancy’ go all out to promote J.K. Rowling’s new novel for adults

New Frontier Publishing’s station at the International Book Fair in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It includes a huge mounting of J.K. Rowling that promotes The Casual Vacancy, complete with computers that presents information about the book.

Brazil publishers of ‘The Casual Vacancy’ go all out to promote J.K. Rowling’s new novel for adults

The Brazilian publishers of The Casual Vacancy are going all out to promote J.K. Rowling’s forthcoming novel for adults.

New Frontier Publishing (Nova Frontiera Editora in Portuguese) posted a few photos on their Facebook page as a marketing ploy to promote the book. Their Facebook page’s cover photo is a picture of J.K. Rowling and the book cover and they devoted three posts (including photos) to J.K. Rowling’s new book.

New Frontier will have a kiosk at the International Book Fair of São Paulo in Brazil (Book Biennial SP), where a huge mounting of J.K. Rowling and her new book awaits you. Shown above, their presentation even includes computers with information about the book.

Pottermore opens Chamber of Secrets to all

Today, Pottermore released the first four chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to all of Pottermore. This release follows yesterday’s release to Slytherin House, who gained 24-hour early access to the new book for winning the House Cup.

This release came with a tweet and an Insider post, contrary to yesterday’s release which came with a notification on Pottermore. In the post, they announced that the book would  be released three parts, with the next batch of chapters available in the coming weeks. They will be releasing chapters five through (meaning including) eleven next, and then twelve to eighteen after that.

Pottermore also commented that ‘all Pottermore students will be able to purchase their second year school books from Diagon Alley, as of tomorrow.’ We’ll be sure to report it on our Twitter and later on here whenever it becomes available. This will likely occur between 6am-11am EST.

Over the morning, we have been working on some guides for the chapters on Pottermore. If you are having some trouble with a moment or cannot find a chocolate frog card, you can use these guides to help you. The list is below.

Guide to Book Two: Chapter One – The Worst Birthday

Guide to Book Two: Chapter Two- Dobby’s Warning

Guide to Book Two: Chapter Three- The Burrow

Guide to Book Two: Chapter Four- At Flourish and Blotts

Speaking of guides, we will be making an announcement about our experience guides soon, so be sure to check back in a few days. We’re planning on doing something totally different and a lot easier for us, but most importantly, for you.

Pottermore opens first chapters Chamber of Secrets to Slytherin House

Today, at about 10:00 am EST, Pottermore launched the first four chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to Slytherin House. Remember, Slytherin House is the first to gain early access to Pottermore as it was the bonus for winning the House Cup.

The launch came with no mention from the @Pottermore Twitter account or the Insider, but Pottermore News was there to report about the second book experience.

If you have been following our Twitter, you will know that we have been live tweeting our experience through the second book. Here are our observations:

  • The artwork is exquisite. Its looks very realistic. Also, the artwork looks different from the first book – but so much better.
  • The artwork in this book looks less like a painting, and more realistic. You feel as though you are in the Dursley’s house, in Flourish and Blotts, flying over the Burrow…
  • The layering in this book is different. Again, its more realistic. Its almost as if whenever you zoom in, your given a wider view. When all of the layers are put together, you have a full panoramic view of the setting. It’s as if you are exploring with your own eyes.
  • I collected a jar of honey, said to be going to my Potions collection. This may hint that they will be releasing new Potions.
  • Pottermore confirmed that there are four cauldrons to collect. They added a silver one today, but you can’t purchase it just yet.
  • In the first four chapters, there are three mini-games. One involving the pudding, another with the Gnomes, and then the last one is about the Hogwarts letters.
  • There are a two Chocolate Frog Cards to collect. We have been told there are three, and we are still looking.
  • J.K. Rowling has written two entries so far for book two, “Technology” and “The Malfoy and Family”. Both are very interesting. A great read.

One thing that’s really sets this book apart from the first book is that this book is driven by interactivity. The first book was really about the content and getting familiar with this online wizarding world. Now that Pottermore is a familiarity, the team took note of that and decided to put all effort into the games and interactive features. It’s a huge step-up.

There are a lot of changes going on at Pottermore at the moment. Read this post for all information on the changes and predictions for Pottermore’s reasoning.

Through the night we will be working on a comprehensive guide for the first four chapters. If you are in another house and waiting for Chamber of Secrets, you can use this guide for help tomorrow. We plan to post it around 8am on our Tumblr page.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will be available to everyone beginning tomorrow. Pottermore has stated that the next chapters they will be releasing are chapters five through eleven. Those will be available ‘shortly’.

Pottermore updates on Chamber of Secrets progress; audio complete and working on artwork

The Pottermore Insider was updated again today to announce that they were now finished working in the studio for the audio and are currently editing the sounds. They also revealed that they were finishing off the artwork for chapter three this week, along with tweaking chapter sixteen’s artwork.

Chamber of Secrets update:
Last week, we recorded audio for the Chamber of Secrets Moments. We’re really pleased with how things went and are now editing the sounds. As well as finishing off Chapter Three, The Burrow, we’re currently tweaking the artwork for Chapter Sixteen, The Chamber of Secrets.

Still, they did not announce any release date for the book. They seem to be making a lot of progress, and very quickly, if they finished audio for eighteen chapters in just one week. At this rate, I think Chamber of Secrets will be available online around late fall, which isn’t much of a wait. After all, we did wait for seven books for ten years.

Hoping all are enjoying your June so far!

Pottermore chief technology officer reveals interesting information in new interview

In a recent interview with Internet Retailing, Pottermore’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Julian Thomas revealed new information about the launch of Pottermore, the shop, social media, and the future of Pottermore.

S0me excerpts from the interview:

We didn’t pre-announce [the launch] – it was switched on, followed by a tweet, because the brand speaks for itself.

It took about three to four months to deliver the [Pottermore Shop], which given the the complexity of what we’ve done – even the first initial launch had sterling, dollars and euros to accommodate the Irish markets as well – is pretty impressive.

Pottermore is a social network in itself to an extent but our audience is out in other places. We have a very active social media strategy. We have a very broad audience that stretches from 8 to 80 – because of that we’re very mindful of what we do in the social media space…. We have used Twitter and will be using Facebook more. As we move out of the initial launch period where we’ve soaked up a big chunk of demand for these books, we will be adopting an emarketing approach that will include social media.

Jo holds exclusive rights around the digital product and we’ll be looking to release enhanced ebooks, it has the potential to reinvent the enhanced ebook.en

This is the latest interview from a Pottermore insider and it proved to be a very successful one, too. Hopefully we will receive more news about enhanced books and the future of Pottermore.com and the Pottermore Shop over the coming months.