At: ashok.org.uk/2007/harry-potter-leaked

Harry Potter leaked

I'm a Harry Potter fan. I like the books, and I really don't want spoiling about the last book. According to Torrent Freak, poor quality scans of the book are already kicking about over BitTorrent.

Now I'm not surprised, but I think – in this case at least – the publisher is winning.


As ranty as I am about media companies needing to compete with ad-hoc distribution channels, I think they're doing quite well here. The quality, third-hand via Torrent Freak, is dodgy at best:

The main complaint that's coming up in comment threads on these sites is that the quality isn't great. You can just barely manage to read each page. And as some downloaders promptly noted, a few pages cannot be read at all without editing the images in Photoshop.

Moreover, they've done a grand job of building the expectation for this book, they've got the worldwide releases going out pretty much simultaneously (I think), and fans of the series are – quite reasonably – excited by the culmination of the thing.

My wife and I are planning to do what we did for the last one: swing past the friendly independent bookshop down the road and pick up a copy at midnight then spend about half our anniversary weekend reading it. That'll be fun, and it'll be beautifully presented, and we'll flip the pages synchronously. Some hacked up copy on a computer screen that's nearly illegible just can't compete, even before you get to the hand-wringing about not paying the publisher. We're happy to pay the premium to the local bookshop – they're brilliant all year round, and shouldn't get clobbered on price by the bulk retailers. They can't discount it, unlike the giants, but they'll make the midnight shopping jaunt good fun, just like last time.

And if you go follow this story up, and read some spoilers about the plot: stay the hell away from me, I just don't want to know.

Now let's see if they can play the "buy the book, it's a better experience" card, or if they'll wheel out the lawyers.

(And yay to Google Reader for letting me read the story despite the fact that Torrent Freak's site is totally hosed right now.)

Update at 12:42 EDT, 19th July 2007.

Oops. The person who photographed every page of the book left the EXIF metadata about their camera in the files.

Boing Boing are talking, based on a story in the Times, about how Canon may be able to trace the owner of this camera, since it's a few years old and may well have been in for a service.

While that's quite possible, I'll be quite surprised if someone doesn't turn up other pictures taken with the same camera that have been posted to some online photo-sharing site. If that happens, tracking down the camera's past owners might not be so hard.

Tagged: Rants, Upbeat, Distribution, Social, Technology

Posted at 13:12 EDT, 17th July 2007.

Last changed at 13:18 EDT, 17th July 2007.

Update at 12:42 EDT, 19th July 2007 – Tracing leaker via EXIF metadata

2 Comments

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Chris Jackson on 24th July 2007

A nice example of an obvious principle: it's hard to charge for content, but easier to charge when you contribute to a a nice, real-world, experience.

When content can be digitised and transmitted at near-zero marginal cost, media companies need to focus on charging for the stuff around the content, rather than the actual content.

Hope you enjoyed reading :)

Ashok Argent-Katwala[ashok] on 24th July 2007

It was fab, a weekend well spent, while also having plenty of non-Potter fun.

You're dead right, it is about making the real-world experience pleasant. I fear that sometimes people interpret the 'stuff around the content' as a shiny box, nice sleeve notes and so forth. Really, I think it's about making the whole experience enjoyable, and media companies ramming DRM down our throats is almost entirely not about that.

I'm saddened that they sent lawyers in, on a bloody news site, of all things.

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