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Harry Potter partners with Google, snubs Apple and PayPal

July 21, 2011 | 11:50 am will be the only place to purchase eBook versions of the Harry Potter films.
Google has joined forces with the most famous wizard in the world, Harry Potter, which could mean a big boost for two of its services while also resulting in a huge missed opportunity for Apple and PayPal.

The partnership with the new Pottermore website by Harry Potter author JK Rowling will make the e-book version of the seven Harry Potter books available on Google's eBooks reader. The deal also makes Google's payment service Google Checkout the official third-party form of payment for Pottermore.

By partnering with Google eBooks, Rowling has found a way to put her seven highly-in-demand books on smartphones, tablets, e-readers and computers without having to split the sales with companies such as Apple or Amazon, who typically keep about 30% of sales.

Rowling's distribution method gives publisher's more leverage when it comes to selling e-books, said Craig Vodnik, chief blogger for, a blog about digital product e-commerce.

"It could be a really, really big deal if this works out based off the titles she's written and she's just so well-known," he said. "From the publisher's perspective it's a big deal because it could give them some control over how they distribute their products."

Vodnik said Google landing Rowling is similar to when Apple finally got the Beatles on their iTunes catalog.

"The Beatles sold so many albums and had so many songs," he said. "Rowling is the same in that perspective, but she is much more current and she could put out more titles. She could actually be more influential over the next 20 years."

In what must have been the trade-off in the deal, Google's payment service Google Checkout appears to be the only way besides debit or credit cards to purchases the books from Pottermore. The inclusion of Google Checkout is a huge snub for PayPal, the original and most used third-party payment service online. Instead, Google Checkout will be exposed to millions of Harry Potter fans looking to buy digital versions of the wizard stories.

In the last few months, Google has been strengthening its push into the e-commerce and mobile payment fields, announcing recently it had begun testing a service called Google Wallet, which allows consumers to pay using their Android phones using a technology called NFC.

The Harry Potter books could become the most purchased e-books upon their release if the franchise's performance at the box office and at book stores are any indication. The final Harry Potter film had the best opening of all time, scoring $168.6 million in the U.S. and Canada in three days. Four years ago, the last Harry Potter book had a similar release, selling 8.3 million copies in its first day, according to Guinness World Records.


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-- Salvador Rodriguez

Image: A screenshot of Pottermore. Credit: Pottermore