Apple has scored a big win in the competitive ebook market by managing to get exclusive enhanced editions of the Harry Potter books in iBooks. The new versions include animations, illustrations, interactions and even annotations by author J.K. Rowling, and are available only in Apple's iBooks store for $9.99 for each book.
Here's a list of the enhanced Harry Potter books available in iBooks:
Just click through to get a synopsis of each book in the iBooks store, and see some of the beautiful illustrations included with these enhanced versions of the Harry Potter series.
Readers cannot change the font and the background is locked to white
One thing that might irk some readers is that the background in the enhanced Harry Potter books is locked to the color white. Readers cannot change it. That definitely doesn't work for me as I like white text on a black background for night reading. I can't imagine having to stare at a white background on my iPad when trying to read at night.
I also noted that you cannot change the font either. You are stuck with the publisher's font in each of the enhanced Harry Potter books. It's not that the default font looks bad or anything like that, but I do like the freedom to choose my preferred font when reading.
Neither of these things will probably be deal breakers for some readers, but for me they are annoying enough that I wouldn't want to own with these books. I'd prefer a regular ebook that simply included illustrations and annotations, but that also gave me the freedom to choose my font and change the background and text color to whatever I wanted to use for reading.
I'm also not big on seeing animations on a page. Yes, there's a certain "coolness" factor to viewing them, but they can also be annoying. A book is a book, not a video. Perhaps it would be a good idea for readers to be able to disable animations and simply see an image instead? Seeing a flying snitch or animated three-headed dog might be neat the first time, but after that it could get a bit tedious.
No enhanced version of Harry Potter for Kindle and no Audible audiobooks
I have also more or less standardized on buying ebooks in Amazon's Kindle store that also have an Audible audiobook. Amazon's Whispersync technology lets me listen to a book or read the Kindle version without losing my place. I can switch back and forth between audio and text quickly and easily.
Unfortunately, I cannot do the same with books in iBooks. As great as these versions of the Harry Potter books might seem to some readers, I would really miss being able to switch to the audiobook version of them. Apple really needs its own version of Whispersync and it also needs to offer an audiobook membership service along the lines of what Audible offers.
However, right now - for some unknown reason - none of the Harry Potter books are even available on Audible. You can only get them on the Pottermore site, but I have no interest in buying them that way. And they aren't available in the iBooks audiobook store either. J.K. Rowling is missing out on some serious money by not allowing the Harry Potter audiobooks to be available in iBooks and Audible.
Update: Reader lifesalich posted a comment below that indicated that audiobooks purchased on Pottermore actually do work in Audible. But the pricing still seems quite expensive to me compared to getting the book directly via Audible and its membership/credit system.
Don't get me wrong here, there are some neat things in these enhanced versions of the Harry Potter books. But I've read them before so even the cool additions are not enough to get me to move away from the powerful combination of Kindle ebooks and Audible audiobooks.
At some point the Harry Potter books will probably be available again on Audible. When that happens I'll want the Kindle versions of the books too, so I can take advantage of Whispersync and switch back and forth between audio and text without losing my place.
Kudos to Apple for getting the enhanced versions of the Harry Potter books
All other things aside, Apple has clearly scored some points against Amazon and other ebook retailers by getting the enhanced versions of the Harry Potter books. It remains to be seen how long they'll only be available in the iBooks store, but the fact that they can only be bought there now is certainly getting a lot of attention in the media.
As for me, I'll sit tight and see if J.K. Rowling finally comes to her senses and releases them later in the Kindle store and especially audiobook versions on Audible. Enhanced audiobooks could be a terrific option if a full cast was used to narrate the books, along with appropriate music and perhaps even some sound effects. I'd certainly be happy to pay a reasonable amount of money for that kind of audiobook experience. For an example of what I mean, check out this awesome version of Dracula on Audible.
Kudos to Apple for getting the enhanced versions of the Harry Potter books, but I have to take a pass on them. I'll stick with the good old Kindle versions of the Harry Potter books. They may not have animation or even illustrations, but at least I can change the font and use different backgrounds.
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