What Can Pottermore Teach Us About Online Publishing?

In a recent blog post in the Oxford Today online magazine, Richard Lofthouse mulls over the future of the online publishing industry.  At one point he references Pottermore, the interactive website dedicated to the world of Harry Potter.  The website self identifies as a space to “[l]earn more about the wizarding world as you discover exclusive new writing from the author herself” and “[e]xplore key scenes from Harry’s journey and begin your own.”  Interaction with the site interface and exploration of its many nooks and crannies is key to its success.

In many ways, I believe we can learn from this model and apply some of its principles to the academic classroom.  An interactive website dedicated to particular events or historical periods has the potential to be a truly dynamic learning environment (particularly if the new classroom experiments with gaming are incorporated).  Lofthouse recognizes the potential of this model, stating, “[t]he future of books is content like the digital extension of Harry Potter, where the reader becomes a co-creator, where there is all sorts of rich media allowing you to hear, see and explore, jump off, go backwards, digress.” But, what are the downsides of this online model?  Can the quality of e-books, as Lofthouse predicts, take a turn for the worse?  Will the e-book become “the the equivalent of 3D spectacles at the cinema” that ultimately “deprive your imagination of all its natural fuel”?