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Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I Already Love Pottermore

Last week, J.K. Rowling gave us a few more details about Pottermore. The site will be the exclusive place to purchase digital versions of all seven of the Harry Potter books, which is huge considering that none of the books have been available as eBooks up to this point. The site will also host loads of new content, and will also be a place where fans can enjoy and share their love for the books and everything else in the Potterverse.

As I read over the barrage of tweets that immediately followed the release of Rowling's Pottermore YouTube video, it seemed that people's feelings about Pottermore were all across the board. Some were excited, some were ambivalent, and some regretted waking up so early for what they felt was an anticlimactic announcement.

And what was my reaction?

I loved it! I loved hearing J.K. Rowling's voice, I loved the animations in the video, and I loved the idea of the Harry Potter universe being expanded beyond what's currently available.

Of course, I'm not a very impartial judge when it comes to Harry Potter, and the reason for that dates back to July 8, 2000. On that day, my (then) wife and I walked into Quail Ridge Books and witnessed the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. Everywhere we looked there were kids of all ages dressed as Harry Potter, all of them dying to get their hands on the just-released 734 page book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Wait, I need to go back in time even further than that for you to fully understand how amazing that site was to me.

When I was a child, I grew up reading fantasy books. I loved C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Piers Anthony, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursula K. Le Guin, and a host of others that I won't list here because that list would make this blog post five times longer than it already is. Suffice to say that I loved all things fantasy, and if a teacher in school gave us free time at the beginning or end of a class, even if it was just a minute or two, my nose was in one of my books.

The problem was that this was a solitary experience. Until I went to college, I had no friends I could talk to about my fantasy books, because I didn't know anyone else who read them. I was even mocked sometimes for always carrying around a book.

Now let's fast forward back to July 8, 2000. When we walked in that store and I saw all those kids desperate to get their hands on the latest adventures of Harry Potter, I actually teared up a bit, because here, right in front of me, was a scene that I had longed for my entire life. All around me were boys and girls who had chosen to come into a bookstore on a Saturday morning to buy a book. And not just any book, but a fantasy book. A 734 page fantasy book.

I looked over at my (then) wife and patted her very pregnant stomach, and I said to her and our future baby, "This is going to change everything."

And it did. Somehow, J.K. Rowling managed to hook an entire generation on fantasy books. She managed to make it cool to read, she managed to make people line up in bookstores for books, and she managed to make kids stay up all night reading.

My son was born two months after that day, and he was born into a completely different world than the one I grew up in. He's now 10 years old, and in his world, Harry Potter has always existed. All of his friends, both boys and girls, all love fantasy, and they've all got huge fantasy book collections. When he has a fantasy book with him, people ask him about it, and they have conversations about it, and they all share this inherit love for fantasy.

So to me, it really doesn't matter what Pottermore is or what it isn't. J.K. Rowling has already worked her magic and changed the world.

For that, I will always love both her and Harry Potter.