Pottermore launches redesigned site with a message from J.K. Rowling

Pottermore 2.0 has launched.

Pottermore 2.0 has launched.

Pottermore launched their redesigned site early Tuesday morning with a message from author J.K. Rowling.

Gone away is the Map and chapter-by-chapter timeline, or even Diagon Alley and Wizard Duel. Pottermore as we know it has changed forever, embarking on a new era.

The new website comes with a handful of new features, revealed by the Menu on the right-hand side of the site. In the News section, the latest updates about all Harry Potter-related projects are reported on by the Pottermore correspondent, an anonymous source but professional journalist who was hired by Pottermore for the job. The correspondent writes with a strong grasp on the task at hand and a unique, personable voice, a refreshing departure from the monotonous tone of the Pottermore Insider.

On the other hand, the feature section displays listicles on the Wizarding World, like “5 Friendship Lessons We Learned From Dobby” and “The 5 Death Eaters You’ll Never Forget”, along with behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the Harry Potter films. This is light-hearted content but there inclusion is questionable when BuzzFeed does the same thing. The purpose of having an authoritative voice on this content is unnecessary.

At the heart of the site remains exclusive content from J.K. Rowling, discoverable in “Writing by J.K. Rowling”. The site launched with all the previously added content available, with more to come. To mark the beginning of the new era, Pottermore published a history of the Potter family, by J.K. Rowling, tracking their pedigree from the 12th century.

An audio message from the author also appears on the site upon the first visit, transcribed below:

Welcome to Pottermore. This is my magical corner of the internet, a place where you can explore my writing, both familiar and new, and where you can read features, articles and news from the Pottermore team. New information will be revealed about the characters, places, and magic you’re familiar with, as well as introductions to a few new characters, places, and notions. Pottermore is a place where you can unleash your imagination, and allow it to lead you on adventures. If you need a little magic in your life, you’ve come to the right place.

With this, J.K. Rowling redefines her project as the digital heart of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Pottermore was always meant to be just that, but in the long run it turned out to be more of a reading experience than anything.

Reactions to the site have been mixed; a lot of people praise the site for its accessibility, and others feel as though The mixed feelings are understandable; its very difficult to react to this because it is an extremely drastic, seemingly unreasoned change.

Pottermore 2.0 is “cooler” with its contemporary tiles, visual-heavy layout, and infinite scroll, but ultimately less imaginative as that idea of cool becomes generic and more visible across the web. By deviating from Harry’s story, going beyond Hogwarts, Pottermore became much less magical and all the more real. Its corporate, to say the least, and a visit to their “About” page will prove this point.

Pottermore’s Director of Product, Creative and Content, Anna Rafferty, in a Bookseller article prior to launch, discussed one of our issues with new Pottermore, teasing: “There are going to be hundreds of thousands of landing pages [on the new site].”

Indeed, there are a ton of landing pages covering nearly everything you could possibly think of in Harry’s world. But it’s too much to consume at once. Information is not presented in a succinct, organized manner. There’s no order in the content, no listed index, so visitors are left to click until they find something interesting, unless they know exactly what they want, in which case they can search for it.

Positively, the site is incredibly mobile-friendly. It works well on all devices. All content is searchable and shareable, which means more people can actively get involved with the community. Of course, J.K. Rowling’s new content continues to be the best part of the experience.

For now, Pottermore is still a work in progress. There is no registration function on the site, and the signature features of the site, the Sorting Hat and Wand questionnaire, are noticeably absent. The Pottermore team explained that they are actively working on incorporating these capabilities into the site, along with the long-anticipated Patronus test. Thankfully, Pottermore stays true to its original promise: more Potter.

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Pottermore invites users to vote on a question for the J.K. Rowling webcast

As we previously reported, J.K. Rowling will be participating in a live webcast this October to discuss the world of Harry Potter. Today, Pottermore is asking readers’ help in choosing a question that will be answered in the interview.

Readers can choose from four questions, but only one will be answered by J.K. Rowling (participants may be able to ask one of the questions during the webcast, if that option is available). In a survey-type format, you can vote for the question. The following are the options:

  • Which Pottermore house are you in?
  • Having a wand choose you is a very exciting moment on Pottermore, what kind of wand chose you?
  • What would your advice be to anyone who has trouble brewing their first successful potion on Pottermore?
  • Which Harry Potter book are you most looking forward to seeing on Pottermore?

You have seven days to vote, and you can only vote once. The winner will be announced next Tuesday, September 11. The webcast will take place on Thursday, October 11 at 12:00pm EST/5:00pm GMT.

Read the Insider post and vote for the question you want answered here.

Pottermore Feature of the Week: Wand Woods

As we explained yesterday, this week we will be catching up on the backlog of Pottermore Feature of the Week posts. Yesterday, we discussed J.K. Rowling’s entry on Nicolas Flamel. Today, we are discussing one of the interesting of the new content: Wand Woods.

We chose J.K. Rowling’s exclusive content entry on Wand Woods for our Pottermore feature today because we think its a fascinating piece of writing. It also shows an amazing side of J.K. Rowling. The entry really shows the amount of research she did during writing the series, clearly wanting information like symbols and objects (and wand woods, of course) to be as factual as the fiction in the fantasy story. With descriptions on thirty-eight real-life species of trees, her efforts for truth is undeniable. She is mixing pure facts with high fiction, creating a whole different kind of Mythology.

Off with the facts – lets talk about the fiction! Most obvious of all, this entry gives you a real sense of her wide imagination. Her mind is like a cauldron, brewing up different ideas, traditions, stories and whatnot. The mixture of the pure facts and high fiction is simply perfect, a rare incident when mixing fact with fiction.

An example of this is the Yew tree’s wood. First read Rowling’s description of the tree, then this analysis of the Yew tree in mythology and folklore, and finally the Wikipedia article on Yew. Notice that they say some of the same things. The information is consistent.

We asked you on Twitter what you thought of the entry, and here’s what you had to say:

Thanks to both of you who tweeted!

We will be announcing tomorrow’s Pottermore feature on our Twitter page.

Sony announces new Harry Potter ‘Book of Spells’ for Wonderbook

At the E3 convention yesterday Sony unveiled the new Wonderbook, an interactive game addition to PlayStation3. Wonderbook will “bring to life a thousand stories… with a brand new series of adventures and experiences to explore”. Sony announced that the first story for the Wonderbook will be Book of Spells from J.K. Rowling. The Book of Spells is another title being published from the Hogwarts Library. In the game, you will be able to read original content from J.K. Rowling and travel chapter-by-chapter learning, reading and practicing 20 different spells. The Book of Spells project is a partnership with Pottermore, Sony, and London Studio.

Read about Book of Spells from the PlayStation website:

Book of Spells is the first title for Wonderbook, the latest addition to the PlayStation experience. Written by Miranda Goshawk over two hundred years ago, the Book of Spellscan be found in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library. This advanced textbook will assist students on their journey to becoming an accomplished witch or wizard. Read, discover, learn and practice spells such as Incendio, Wingardium Leviosa and Expelliarmus, as well as discover mischievous notes, spells and humorous anecdotal facts scribbled into the margins by previous Hogwarts students. J.K. Rowling has written a conundrum that leads you through the experience, providing insight into the values a witch or wizard has to learn, and inviting you to journey through the book to unlock new content, rewarding successful students along the way.

The product has stirred up quite a bit of controversy among fans, particularly over the fact that to get the new exclusive writing from J.K. Rowling, they will have to purchase five products – PlayStation3, a Wonderbook, Playstation Eye, a Playstation Move  controller and the book (if they haven’t already purchased any of them).

Many were also under the false impression, as was I, that Pottermore is currently the only place to read new writing from J.K. Rowling about Harry Potter. Clearly, this has been proved to be false, as Pottermore is now only a place to read exclusive content for free. The Book of Spells will also be a place to find new content from Rowling, but at a price.

I don’t think this is a matter you should be worrying about, though, because this will unlikely turn into a series. The Book of Spells is only the first story and the others will be unrelated to Harry Potter with content about the Harry Potter world – for now. I am currently under the impression that the content released through the new book will be a different style than those found on Pottermore. For instance, you probably won’t see a McGonagall-type entry in the book, only for the backstory on the spells. For what I know, the new content is only new spells and their backstory, and Aesop-inspired poems included to teach the player morals.

The Wonderbook is an educational product used to promote reading in children. It is a game, but it is more of an educational game where the story comes to life. In some ways its like Pottermore, but Pottermore lacks the augmented reality that the Wonderbook is; Pottermore and Wonderbook are entirely different things. One’s a game, the other is an experience.

I’ve also been seeing that some do not understand Pottermore’s place in the project. Let’s just get one thing straight: this is not Pottermore’s product. The Wonderbook is Sony’s project/product, as most of you realize. The story, the Book of Spells, is a project that brings together Sony, Pottermore, and London Studio. If I’m understanding correctly, Pottermore is only that – a partner in the making of this product. From the viewpoint of a fan, it is not clear what is Pottermore’s role in the project. Perhaps all I’m saying is entirely untrue – and we’ll share the facts with you once there is some statement from either companies – but for now, those are all my theories about Pottermore’s role.

To learn more about Wonderbook and Books of Spells, click here. The book was also promoted with a magical commercial that you can see on YouTube here. View the promo for the Wonderbook here.

Pottermore CEO talks ‘Chamber of Secrets’ and shares site stats

A recent article in The Bookseller revealed some new information about the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Pottermore and site statistics. Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne also contributed, sharing additional reports on the Pottermore Shop.

“Over the past two weeks we’ve seen sales settle down, but they remain very significant, and way beyond what we originally budgeted for.” He [CEO Charlie Redmayne] added that sales of the physical copies of the seven titles had also increased, and that because of the site’s light-touch Digital Rights Management, piracy had diminished.

“Obviously there were fears piracy would increase as a result of being DRM-free, and that sales of the e-books would cannibalise sales of the physical titles, but we were delighted to see sales of the physical books go up, and piracy come down.”

In the article, they reported that Pottermore.com (the “experience”) was visited 22 million times from 7 million unique visitors in the first two weeks of launch. The site has generated 1bn page ‘impressions’ with the average user spending 25 minutes on the site, visiting 47 pages.

Redmayne said there had been 4.2m attempts to make potions, with a success rate of just 32%. In those first two weeks there had been 39.9m “wizard duels” with the “full body bind” spell the most popular, and “pimple jinx” the least used. He said that after two weeks 5m new users had registered, with perhaps half of those already sorted into houses, such as Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.

Redmayne also added that the release of book two, The Chamber of Secrets, was still “weeks away”, as previously reported, and that they will be adding new interactive games and programs in the next few weeks. Hopefully in the very near future we will see some new content from J.K. Rowling!