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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Rowling conjures new medium

    Last week, J.K. Rowling revealed her plans for Pottermore — a mysterious website that she explained will be “”an online reading experience unlike any other … It’s the same story, but with a few crucial additions. The most important one is you.””

    Her video, which you can view at pottermore.com, does not give a very clear explanation of the concept. But my best guess is that it will be some kind of interactive community centered on the Harry Potter books. Rowling explained that Pottermore will be shaped by readers, who will use the website to interact with the books, share their thoughts and rediscover their love of the story. The website also marks the introduction of Harry Potter as a digital/audio book and e-book.

    Of course, e-books and electronic readers such as the Kindle and Nook have been gaining popularity for years, and in doing so, are irreversibly changing the world of literature. You may have heard someone say that in the next decade or so, books will become obsolete — and much to the dismay of English majors and bibliophiles, this may be true. After all, Borders bookstores filed bankruptcy this year, and you never know who might be next.

    The death of books may seem terrifying. I mean, have you seen that heartbreaking Kindle commercial where a male actor asserts the superiority of his Kindle by shattering the dreams of a female actress (who just wants to express her love of folding book pages down)? Yet, as mean as the commercial appears, such technology isn’t actually sentencing all books to an inevitable death. In fact, the book isn’t necessarily dying out as much as changing form.

    And new forms of literature aren’t just limited to e-readers. As Pottermore demonstrates, literature is taking all sorts of new shapes, including social networking and online communities. Soon, depending on the features of the Pottermore site — which will be revealed on July 31 — books may even reach into the realm of interactive gaming.

    Once-static books are reaching heretofore-unimagined levels of interactivity already. QR codes dot airports and bus benches around the country, allowing anyone with a smartphone and barcode reader to have instant access to the classics. After all, who hasn’t fantasized about reading “”20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”” while 35,000 feet in the air?

    So although some critics may attack Pottermore as just another way to exploit the Harry Potter franchise, it actually may hold much greater significance to the world of reading and writing. Pottermore isn’t going to be the first new form of literature, and it certainly won’t be the last. But as we develop new ways to approaching books as a medium, we have to realize exactly that: The concept of books still exists, it’s only the medium that is changing. And in fact, as we introduce more and more ways to access, experience and enjoy books, we’re expanding (not destroying) literature.

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