A bit of follow-up to prior entries is the order of the day.

First of all, you might want to review the entry a couple of posts down from this one, about how J.K. Rowling has explicitly denied that there will be any Harry Potter ebooks for the foreseeable future. None. Zip. Nada.

Knowing this, you might have been given cause to wonder just what the heck is going on if you saw the headline in the UK Telegraph today: “Now, coming to a computer near you – Harry Potter downloads”. The article opens with

Harry Potter could soon become Harry Blogger, after its publisher Bloomsbury offered downloadable books for the first time and predicted that within 10 years half of all its fiction sales could come from e-books.

“Ah,” you might think. “I guess Rowling changed her mind.” Except…hey, wait a minute. If you read the entire article, you discover Harry Potter is barely mentioned again. The article is full of the same bleating about “…but reading on PDA sucks!” and “We’re charging the same as a print book for an ebook that’s so locked down and restricted you can do even less with it than you can with competitors’ ebooks, let alone a paper version” that has characterized major publishers’ responses to the ebook conundrum—while at the same time, oddly enough, claiming that ebooks have a bright future. They touch briefly on Sony’s forthcoming e-ink book reader, though there is no indication that Bloomsbury’s books will be compatible with it. They even throw in a desultory mention of Google’s book initiative, though make no real effort to tie it to the rest of the story in any way. The thrust of the story, from what I’ve been able to tell, is that Bloomsbury is making 24 titles available as ebooks now.

But what you won’t find is any specific mention of Harry Potter being included in those ebooks. Yet, neither will you find any mention that it is specifically not included. In fact, after the first couple of paragraphs, Harry Potter is barely mentioned at all.

So, in the end, the story seems to be a mishmash of factoids based on the ideas that 1) Bloomsbury publishes Harry Potter, and 2) Bloomsbury is coming out with ebooks. And then you get to watch the journalist dancing all around through various marginally-related or unrelated issues, trying to distract you from the fact that he can’t actually complete the syllogism.

You can be damned sure that if Rowling had changed her stance on ebooks, the article would have come right out and said so, and even mentioned the controversy that her original decision against ebooks caused (and my prior column took note of). Instead, this is conveniently swept under the rug for the sake of getting readers. I guess this sort of thing is why British tabloid journalism is looked down upon so much. But the funny thing is, when I searched Google News for related stories, none of the other stories I scanned about Bloomsbury’s ebooks specifically said whether or not Harry Potter was included either. So I guess the Telegraph can’t really take all the blame.

It will be interesting to see if Rowling is, eventually, forced by peer pressure to change her mind on ebooks. But there’s no sign it’s happened yet.

The other news is that, alas, after briefly making several Tor ebooks available via Webscriptions, Baen abruptly removed them from its site a couple of weeks ago pending further discussion with Tor’s higher-ups. Then, yesterday, Baen’s webmaven Arnold Bailey posted a terse notice on Baen’s Bar to the effect that:

Sorry. It’s official that Tor’s corporate parent pulled the plug on the project for the foreseeable future. Don’t blame Tor or Tom. Strictly uber-corporate bone headedness.

So much for a bright new e-reading future. Tor’s spirit was willing, but the flesh of its corporate owner was weak. They had taken some steps in the right direction, such as the willingness to release DRM-free ebooks even at higher price points than Baen, but the owner shut ’em down. Maybe in a few years they’ll come around to Baen’s way of thinking.

On the bright side, at least this means I don’t need to buy yet another copy of A Fire Upon the Deep

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