PotterMore: Best Guesses, Notes of Sad Indifference

UPDATE: A longer version of this post is available at the International Business Times’ Book page.

I have been buried in owls about the PotterMore.com web site that Ms. Rowling will be launching Thursday. You can read about it at Entertainment Weekly, the BuzzFeed, and there is a good conversation already in progress at The Hog’s Head. An excellent summary of the ‘best guesses’ of what this new site will be about, seven guesses gathered from the global speculation the teaser announcements have inspired, can be found at ‘The Week.’

I’m confident the Hogwarts Professors will have more to say about PotterMore on Thursday, as we will about the movie franchise’s last installment in July. I want to note one thing now, though, and that is we have been assured that the new site’s launch is not the occasion for the announcement of a new Hogwarts saga book publication.

My two responses, consequently, to the new web site are “so what?” and “please don’t patronize me.”

The “so what?” reflex reflects my primary attraction to the Hogwarts Saga: an edifying, engaging imaginative experience in written story. An online encyclopedia to replace the Lexicon, a published version of same, new e-book versions (!), a role-playing game, a UK theme park, and the other possibilities listed by The Week mean little to nothing to me compared even to the idea of another ancillary work, such as Tales of Beedle the Bard or the Hogwarts textbooks. This is franchise marketing, akin to the billion dollar investments and multi-billion dollar pay-offs in the films and theme park, that doesn’t augment and perhaps somehow diminishes via distraction from the reading experience that is the heart and spirit of my personal bit of Potter-mania.

“Don’t patronize me” is my reaction to learning about how the site was revealed: pieces of the puzzle were given to ten fan sites from which adepts deduced the ten letters of ‘PotterMore’ — and then clicking on the few objects on that sites page brought them further revelations. Read about that process of discovery at the Entertainment Weekly and Buzzfeed articles linked above.

While I am grateful, I guess, that fans teased out these facts, I confess to being startled, ‘amazed’ may be closer to the truth, that intelligent people have bothered. Tracking down the site in Manchester on google-maps? Staring at pictures of lounge chairs and libraries for hours, clicking randomly in various sequences on the objects therein for hidden secrets? Really?

Forgive me, but ‘What Would Dumbledore Do?’ Would he be chasing down the clues? Would he as Gamesmaker create a virtual reality maze for the fan-rats to run?

I doubt it.

This is demeaning manipulation of readers using their fascination with a written text, or, I fear, using their identification with the larger cultural consequence — the movies, the Fandom, the WRock music, the Wizarding World, etc. Sadly, even if we ‘get it’ and decipher the clue, find the hidden internet passage, we’re inevitably, and, because of our success perhaps more profoundly, a rat in the franchise sponsored manipulator’s maze.

Have we arrived at a point where the franchise has lost touch with the core meaning of the books? Has it “jumped the shark,” if you will? I worry I am playing the Scrooge here and lamenting what for others may just be good fun. If so, please forgive and ignore me.

I am curious, though, if anyone else finds this kind of thing sad, borderline pathetic with respect to the parts both the Rowling Franchise and fandom are playing in roll-out merchandising. Thanks in advance for letting me know what you think.


  1. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    My reaction is somewhat similar. Now that any chance of an ancillary book is not in the cards, I’ve entirely lost interest in PotterMore. What I love is the richly imagined world that was created through the written word, one that I can carry with me, learn from, and be inspired by to make our world better.

  2. ditto!

  3. revgeorge says

    The only two things I’d be interested in are an encyclopedia or information on minor characters & e-books. Would love to get me some Potter e-books. Legal ones, that is… 🙂

  4. I think you are probably right, as far as it goes. However, I was talking to my son-in-law last night and he asked if I had seen the preview of whatever it is. Neither of us came up with much, though we hadn’t heard that it definitely is not a book, so we thought it might be some extension of the story or back story.

    Tim is an avid gamer and was excited by the possibilty of something along that line. The way he sees it is that it is a way to keep people interested in all things Potter and would lead those who hadn’t read the books to read them. I know that wouldn’t be the case for everyone, as we know there are people who only watch the movies and have never touched the books. But the idea that there might be some who would pick up the books makes it worth while. And if there is going to be some sort of gaming involved I would prefer that Rowling still has control over the content.

    When we went to Florida in May we spent most of out time at Disney World with three days on the Disney Dream. But one day we spent most of the day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I know it’s there to make money for Universal, but I loved it. I loved being in a place I’ve read about for so long. At one point while we waited in line for the Forbidden Journey ride (tons of fun, btw), I said to Terry “I wonder how many of these people here are as geeky about Harry Potter as I am or if they are just here for the ride.” But then I started listening and I realized that most people were just like I am – there to enjoy being part of a world that we found in the books. The talk wasn’t so much about the movies but about details from the books. And that’s not a bad thing.

  5. I didn’t quite finish that last thought. Many of the people there had very young children. Walking around Hogsmeade and in and out of all the shops and seeing someone being chosen by a wand in Ollivander’s and seeing Hogwarts Castle and Hagrid’s hut are a great way to introduce the world of Potter to children who are too young for the books. We stood in line and chatted with a family from Canada whose sons were under 5. But they were enjoying their day and when they are old enough the books will be there waiting for them.

  6. Oops – sorry about the link to my blog. Apparently I can’t spell Eeyore. 🙁

    OK, I’m done.

  7. It worries me as well. Initially, not having children of the age to read Harry Potter, I was a bit turned off by the all the marketing that was done in Hogwarts name. Eventually, when I did read the books, I loved them. I try to keep them separate in my mind from the movies and all the other ‘stuff’. The one exception would be the soundtracks, which are quite interesting.

  8. Personally, I don’t find any harm in having some good fun with a scavenger hunt. Who doesn’t love those right? If anything, it merely reminded me (in a cute though significantly less deep way of course) of the hunt for Horcruxes that Harry, Ron and Hermione were sent on by Dumbledore. They needed to find them on their own because it was the journey that mattered, right?

  9. I guess, Sierra! As I wrote, please ignore my thoughts on this if I am Ebeneezer Eeyore in this.

    I would note, though, on your Horcrux Hunt analogy, that you have put the Potter Franchise holders in the role of the Dark Lord. I didn’t and wouldn’t go there.

  10. What a disappointment! It seems JKR has realised how many HP sites are out there and decided to cash in, even plugging the now to be released e-books. I thought it all very vague otherwise and still a long wait for the launch. Not at all what I hoped for. What do others think?

  11. Francesca says

    Pottermore, now that the (very vague) announcement about its true nature has been revealed, is a bit disappointing, I must admit. I wholeheartedly agree that it is just another way to capitalize on the franchise, and the idea of the “scavenger hunt” type things they have going on just bores me. I will admittedly be interested when Pottermore is opened to trek around and see what there is to offer, if not mostly for the new material that J.K.R. will be releasing on it. It will be exciting to be able to read the back stories and extra material she has. The idea of role-playing games or whatever it is that Pottermore will be will most likely bore me, as I’m not much one for computer games anyway. It will be interesting to see what House I am sorted into though, since it will be (hopefully) according to J.K.R.’s qualifications for being sorted into the Houses, so it should be pretty realistic and sort me into the House that I would actually be in (at least, I’d hope). And about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I must say, although I know it’s just another installment in the HP franchise, was a fantastic experience for me when I had the opportunity to go there a few months ago. Having grown up with the Harry Potter books, I felt like being there was at least somewhat what it may have been like to actually be at Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. It felt so real, although on a much smaller scale. Other things, like Wrock, for instance, are interesting because it is really a form of Harry Potter social networking (something of what I assume Pottermore will be), and it’s certainly interesting to hear other people’s interpretations of and dedications/memorials to the series through song. But of course, nothing ever can or will surpass the books in any way at all. You can’t truly experience Harry Potter in any way without the books, no matter how many times you see the movies, visit the theme park, play video/computer games, and listen to Wrock. Nothing is like the books, absolutely nothing.

  12. Francesca says

    And I also forgot to mention in my last comment the whole talk about eBooks. Seeing as I don’t have an eReader of any sort at the time and am not necessarily planning on getting one anytime soon, it won’t have much of an effect on me at all. eReaders are becoming ever more popular though, so I’m sure this will be nice for a lot of people. It just seemed that J.K.R. was putting the whole eBook business out to seem as if it was the main purpose and greatest part of this whole site and idea, and really emphasized the online store a lot. But I guess that’s why they call it a franchise.

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