Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images;Warner Brothers
When Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling launched a new website called Pottermore last week, featuring only the words "Coming soon..." and linking to a YouTube countdown clock set to expire at 2 a.m. ET on June 23, Potterheads the world over began to speculate as to what might happen when that clock ran out. Of course, the big question was: Would Rowling announce that she's working on an eighth Harry Potter book?
Now that the clock has expired, we know that fans will not be getting that eighth Potter tome they've been pining for -- at least not yet. (Sorry!) What Potterheads will be getting, according to a YouTube video message from Jo Rowling herself (this message replaced the countdown clock), is "a safe, unique online reading experience built around the Harry Potter books." Watch Rowling's video message below.
So what exactly does that mean? Well, Rowling promises that Pottermore will be an "experience unlike any other," meant to enhace the reading of the seven novels with never-before-seen illustrations, as well as additional material Rowling has written about the cast of characters and the familiar magical settings. This is "information" that Rowling says she's "been hoarding for years."
In addition, Pottermore will offer all seven of the Harry Potter novels as audiobooks and e-books for the first time ever -- and it will be the only place where you can buy them. That's right, Rowling has made the bold decision to bypass online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, although the audiobooks will be compatible with the Kindle and other e-readers.
And, although the focus of Pottermore will be on the written word, registered users will also be able to participate in some interactive games and fun social networking stuff. They can shop for wands in a virtual Diagon Alley, catch the train at the invisible Platform 9 3/4 at London's King's Cross train station, and travel to Hogwarts School to be subjected to the "Sorting Hat," among other fun activities.
The actual site goes live on July 31, and early registration has already begun. One million lucky users will be chosen through an ongoing online competition, will be given early access to the site, and will be able to help create the Pottermore experience, which will be open to all registrants in October.
At a press conference in London, Rowling revealed her reasons for launching the site. "This was about the give-back," she said. "The technology now existed to do something outside the books and the films for existing fans."
But those fans might want to put to bed their feverish hope that Rowling is working on an eighth Harry Potter book. "I do have closure with Harry. I have no plans to write another novel. I'm pretty sure I'm done on the novel front," Rowling said at the press conference. "But it was fun while it lasted."
How hard was it for Rowling to let Harry go? "It is exactly like an ex-boyfriend," she confessed. "Finishing writing Harry -- I have only ever cried in that way and that much when my mother died. I have never cried for a man the way I cried for Harry Potter."
The final installment of the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 opens July 15. Get your wands ready!