With the recent frenzy of Pottermore news making waves across the fandom, we have once more witnessed an intensity and unity that is unmatched by the fervor any movie or theme park can generate.
No matter the love and excitement over the great Harry Potter film series, no matter the pomp and circumstance surrounding last year's grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, no one possess the power to capture with such force the attention of the fandom (or get this reporter out of bed at 3 a.m. on a Thursday) like J.K. Rowling.
As the final Harry Potter film draws ever closer, the looming threat of a significant drop in fandom activity has been undeniable, but Rowling ("Jo" to us) and Pottermore have arrived just in the nick of time to save the day with what is arguably the most exciting Harry Potter announcement since the days of Deathly Hallows.
The speculation and excitement about the nature of Pottermore united not only the more active members of the Harry Potter fandom, but those more casual fans as well, something I have not witnessed in almost four years. Jo has emerged from a virtual post-Potter "vacation" with the welcome surprise that there is more to be shared with her devoted fans, who have patiently awaited word of what her "pen and paper priority" has been for many months.
And now that we have a (small) understanding of what Pottermore is, we can begin to discuss what it means: Does this announcement and the looming launch of Pottermore hold enough weight to keep together a fandom that is showing signs of deterioration?
To me, Pottermore will act as an integral part of the fandom for the next few years. Yes, years. If Jo were to have announced a print encyclopedia, the immediate impact would have been greater. But because of the interactive nature of Pottermore, and the fact that each novel's storyline will be released months apart (Sorcerer’s Stone in October, Chamber of Secrets in early 2012), the Pottermore storyline may not conclude for at least two years - extending active fandom discovery until the end of 2013 at the earliest.
Rowling and the team behind Pottermore is clearly banking on a large turnout as it begins a beta phase with a whopping one million people. One can hardly fathom what this means for participation when the floodgates open to the whole world. If we look at the fans on the official Harry Potter Facebook page, which currently sits at upwards of 27 million, the number of fans who might be interested at least casually in joining Pottermore can't be much less. (Not to mention the 450 million copies of the books in 70 languages that have been sold to date.)
What does this mean? The Harry Potter fandom is on the verge of embarking on a new, monumental journey, something which has never occurred and probably will never happen again, as Rowling has been famously private about her writings in the past. Pottermore will be truly a one-of-a-kind experience where fans will have the opportunity to dictate what they want to see come out of it, both from Jo and fellow fans.
In addition, Rowling stated that at this point she has only a third of all information written (18,000 words) set to feature on Pottermore, and that she has not ruled out the possibility of publishing a more comprehensive encylcopedia down the road (presumably post-Pottermore).
I believe the whole fandom discovering brand new canon together is the most important aspect of Pottermore. The ingenious sorting, play-along aspects and digital store with the first ever Harry Potter e-books? That's merely icing on an already delicious cake.
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