During 2020, particularly because of the impact of Covid-19, reading and listening to books was as popular as ever.
It was a very busy time for Pottermore Publishing.
In February 2020 we ran a sweepstakes for US libraries in partnership with Penguin Random House and Scholastic. By tagging their library and explaining why it was magic on social media, patrons had the chance of winning copies of the Harry Potter series in five different formats for its collection. It was great to see the love and enthusiasm for libraries and librarians out there.
At the end of March we released The Tales of Beedle the Bard in audio for the first time. Jude Law, Warwick Davis, Noma Dumezweni, Jason Isaacs, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright and Sally Mortemore came together to record J.K. Rowling’s collection in support of her charity, the Lumos Foundation. The audiobook hit number one in the UK and US Audible charts after it was announced and put up for pre-order
Throughout the year we continued our roll-out of new foreign-language recordings of the Harry Potter stories with an array of acting talent: Jouman Fattal recorded new Dutch editions, Silvia Petkova narrated the series in Bulgarian and the first Brazilian Portuguese audiobooks, voiced by Ícaro Silva, were released just before the end of the year.
Smart-speaker innovation remained a key part of our work in 2020 with a new Wizarding World quiz Alexa Skill, and a Quidditch-based Action for Google Assistant, using clips from the Quidditch Through the Ages audiobook. Read a handy round-up of all the ways Pottermore Publishing lets you explore the wizarding world on smart speakers here.
April 2020 saw the launch of the Harry Potter At Home campaign with Wizarding World partners, which included a few familiar faces as well as some new friends, getting together to read the first Harry Potter story, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone. Pottermore Publishing also made the first book in the series free to listen to or read for a period, across a range of platforms, so that anyone unable to attend school (or just stuck at home) could enjoy it.
As the usual gathering on 1st September at King’s Cross station (the date the Hogwarts Express leaves in the stories) wasn’t going to be possible this year, the franchise worked to celebrate Back to Hogwarts remotely. To mark the occasion, Pottermore created a special, immersive Harry Potter audio experience called Journeys to Hogwarts to transport listeners to an imaginary station platform and aboard the Hogwarts Express. The sound design was created by some of the technicians who worked on the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films, who used the latest acoustic techniques to create an immersive soundscape. You can read all about it, and find where to listen to it, here.
As the year approached its close, we published the eBook of Fantastic Beasts – The Wonder of Nature, designed to accompany a new exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum. In it, the magical world of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts meets real-world experts to create a book devoted to the wonders of nature, science and adventure – and their fictional counterparts from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. Adapting a large format, highly illustrated print book for digital devices can be a challenge. Read about how we did it here.
We loved seeing how our ‘Christmas in the Wizarding World’ assets, which depicted Hogwarts in the snow, were used by many of our retail partners over the holiday period too.
We ended the year with all of the Harry Potter books in the top seven spots in the most-read books of 2020 on Amazon.co.uk. Four of the books – Philosopher’s Stone, Order of the Phoenix, Goblet of Fire and Chamber of Secrets – also made the top-ten highly quotable list. This was calculated by how frequently customers highlighted passages in these books.
In 2021, we’ll be keeping busy making sure we bring you the best digital publishing experiences and campaigns we can. We’re excited about what we have in store and hope the Harry Potter stories remain a refuge for your imaginations, young and old – for new readers and returning fans alike.