Follow the Money: Pottermore Numerology, Speculation

The graphic to the left is from Fast Company and I urge you to go to their site to see it in its legible fullness. I thought it worth sharing because I’m guessing some readers out there who visited yesterday to see what all the fuss was about may have left the graphics of dancing owls, paper spiders, and opening gates scratching their heads. Why would whomever is behind this — Ms. Rowling? Bloomsbury/Scholastic? Warner Bros? Universal? — invest so much money into this kind of animation/CGI? [An excellent summary of what Pottermore will offer readers in October can be read here.]

The answer, I think, is a combination of money and control, the latter of which will bring us back to money. And, eventually, total author control.

I have been asked repeatedly since 2007 if there will be more books or movies. My answer has been and continues to be, “Of course there will be.” Warner Bros is making more than $1 billion dollars a film and Ms. Rowling has charity concerns that need money. I’m confident there has been a full time person or office in Hollywood devoted to grooming Ms. Rowling in hopes of another book or script.

And that is just the film concerns. Because of the eBook revolution that has largely made publishers and bookstores irrelevant looking not to far into the future, Ms. Rowling is sitting on a diamond mine with the e-rights to her Harry Potter books — assuming that she owns them. Not only does she look to make the mother lode of profits doing absolutely nothing more than re-formatting what she has written, a la re-mastering LPs to CDs, by creating a portal for her fans to access her books, she will be making both a route for future books she has to offer, cutting out the middleman of publishers, vendors, etc., as well as a model for other authors to follow outside the Kindle and Nook platforms.

I do not know who is bank rolling this venture. If it is any of the corporations with copyright holds on the Potter franchise, this is one big brother taking from another big brother (Warner Bros vs Amazon? who cares…). If Ms. Rowling is doing this on her own or with backers she has chosen, this is analogous to Hermione’s Quibbler end run with Harry’s story in Order of the Phoenix.

She certainly has the money on hand to make the do-it-yourself idea a real possibility — can you say $1.6 million dollars every three days from the franchise, not to count the interest on the principal the dragons are guarding at Gringotts? Even with the UK taxation rates, she’s not looking at a return to the dole soon.

Yes, it’s all about money and control. Forgive me for hoping that Ms. Rowling’s Pottermore venture — to which she holds “publishing rights” [“Harry Potter and Pottermore Publishing Rights” (emphasis ours) are the copyrights of J.K. Rowling”] — is not just a little face time for her. I like to think this is an attempt to break out of the publishing-bookstore grip and create a new author-to-reader near direct access and exchange that others can build on eventually. There isn’t another writer on the planet who has the personal reach (over 400,000 twitter followers? on six tweets?) and the cash to even attempt this kind of soloing.

IBT’s David Magee thinks this end-around bypass of publisher and retailer is exactly Ms. Rowling’s plan. Your comments and corrections are coveted.


  1. I noticed on the graphic from Fast Company that it states “at least 13 colleges have taught Harry Potter-themed courses.” I checked out how many colleges offered courses that are Harry Potter themed by checking the course offerings and found at least 31:

    Frostburg University
    Bridgewater State University
    Cerritos College
    St. Catherine College
    Lawrence University
    Texas Lutheran University
    Liberty University
    University of Texas at Dallas
    Northern Arizona University
    Oregon State University
    Kansas State University
    Ohio State University
    Texas A & M University
    Oklahoma University
    Meredith College
    Stephen F. Austin St. Univ.
    Virginia Tech University
    University of California, (Irvine & Davis)
    Tufts University
    Clemson University
    Eastern Michigan University
    Kent State University
    University of Washington
    Swarthmore College
    Durham (England)

    Please list any I have overlooked.

  2. Augustana should top that list.

    I’m surprised to see Liberty, though David Baggett teaches there.

  3. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    You can add Marymount Manhattan College as of this coming Fall, when I teach Harry Potter and Philosophy for the first time (and it won’t be the last time!).

  4. Hello. I think this is my first comment on this site although I have been following for quite some time now. My interests lie in the integration of theology and video games, but am interested in the integration of theology and pop culture in general. Anyway, it seems like at least one source behind pottermore is Sony. You can’t count out the video games! Here is the link to the gaming and culture blog Kotaku. They linked to the official European playstation blog.

  5. John – I was surprised at Liberty as well. Found them listed in an article about college courses on Harry Potter (

    Carrie-Ann – That is awesome. What will be the textbook you will use (in addition to the Potter books of course)?

    Also, here are sixteen more colleges to add to the list:

    Buffalo State University
    Rivier College
    Gordon College (Georgia)
    Southern Utah University
    Otterbein University (Ohio)
    Arizona State University (Honors College)
    University of Wisconsin (Marshfield)
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Ball State University
    University of Iowa (Honor Program)
    Brown University (Pre-College Program)
    Finger Lakes Community College (NY)
    Marshall University (Honors College)
    University of Texas at Austin
    North Georgia College & State University
    Middle Tennessee State University

    That’s 49 colleges and universities.

  6. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    Thanks, Steve! In addition to the seven novels, I’ll be using Greg Bassham’s edited collection, The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles (Wiley 2010), and putting together a course packet of readings that contains carefully selected articles and chapters from several other collections and books, including the 2004 Baggett & Klein collection, Travis Prinzi’s work, John Granger’s work, and Edmund Kern’s work. I’m ordering the full copies of all of these other books and collections for our college’s library.

    I’ll start out the course with a philosophy of literature framework, and then work through issues in metaphysics, ethics, and politics. Can’t wait!

  7. Carrie-Ann, you certainly chose the best authors for your course development along side the seven book HP series.

    With all of the lists of Universities and colleges providing a literary course on HP,
    didn’t Professor Granger make that prediction a few years back that Harry Potter will be one of the literary spotlights
    of our generation.

  8. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    I’m glad you like the basic course development, David. What a joy it will be–every time I pass by one of the students who will be in my Fall course, that person grins from ear-to-ear, saying things like, “I can’t wait for the Fall semester! Harry Potter is awesome!” I got my feet wet a little this past Spring semester when I integrated Sorcerer’s Stone at the end of a course on Heroism, and it was all I could do to harness and channel academically the overwhelming enthusiasm, energy, and love for all things Potter.

    Yes, indeed, Professor Granger sure called this one! His vision of the Harry Potter saga as the “shared text of the twenty-first century” couldn’t be more accurate.

Speak Your Mind