Harry popping up on the Internet, especially in countries without official translation, may even help popularize e-books:
- So far, authors and publishers have mainly stood on the sidelines of the Internet file-swapping frenzy that has shaken the music industry and aroused fear among makers of motion pictures. But the publishing phenomenon around the young wizard appears to be forging a new chapter in the digital copyright wars: Harry Potter and the Internet pirates.
A growing number of Potter devotees around the world seem to be embracing the prospect of reading the voluminous new book (766 pages in the British edition; 870 in the American version) on the screen. And at least some of them are assisting in the cumbersome process of scanning, typing in or translating the book, which its author, J. K. Rowling, has not authorized for publication in any of the existing commercial e-book formats.
Last week, enthusiastic readers put unofficially translated portions of “Order of the Phoenix” on the Web in German and Czech, only to remove them after the publishers that own the rights in their respective countries threatened legal action.
English-language copies of the book – along with fan-written stories masquerading as the real thing – are available on all the major file-sharing networks in a variety of file formats.
….Some publishing industry officials say the electronic Potter piracy may be a perverse sign that the public is finally acquiring a taste for e-books.
“I used to joke in my speeches that e-books had not arrived because none of the pirate sites were dedicated to books,” said Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, which began putting books whose copyrights had expired online 32 years ago and has made nearly 9,000 books freely available. “It is obvious that the infrastructure to make legal e-books is now so strongly entrenched that people feel empowered to make their own, even when the publishing industry refuses.”
….Wayne Chang, an American college student and computer systems administrator who is in Tokyo for the summer, said it took him about three minutes to download “Phoenix” to his laptop computer after searching local bookstores in vain when the book came out.
Still, the same drawbacks that have thwarted the market for commercial e-books for years afflict even the most eager electronic Potter fans: Mr. Chang said he has stopped on Page 90 and is waiting for a colleague in the United States to send him a hard copy because he wants “the real thing.”
“It’s like `Matrix Reloaded,’ ” Mr. Chang explained in an instant message, with the hard-earned wisdom of a consumer of unauthorized digital media. “You want to see it so bad that when they released it on the Internet two days before it came out, you didn’t download it,” he said, because seeing it on a large screen in a theater was an experience to be savored.
Yet for some fans in countries where the “real thing” is not due out for months, an alternate experience looks just fine. The 15-year-old Web master of a Harry Potter fan site, HP News (http://www.x.unas.cz) said he downloaded and read a partial Czech translation of the book published by another group of teenage fans before the Prague-based publisher, Albatros, insisted that they remove it from the Internet.
A spokesman for Albatros said there had been a slight delay in the Czech translation because the translator has been ill. It is scheduled to be published on Feb. 1.
“Yes, I read the illegal translation,” a correspondent named Hustey wrote in an e-mail message. “I keep it in my PC. And I still waiting for next translation, cause I don’t want wait to next year for legal translation.”
A group of German fans who formed a kind of Internet translating collective also removed portions of their translation from the site www.harry-auf-deutsch.de last week when Carlsen Verlag, the Hamburg-based publisher, asserted that it was a breach of copyright. The project continues, but the 800 or so participants now exchange the text only over e-mail. [NY Times]
Give consumers what they want when they want it, or they will find another way. At least the book people seem to have a better perspective on this than some others we could mention.