Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Truth Will Out

This would probably be an excellent time for me to make my final predictions for the outcome of the Harry Potter series, so I won't. For one thing, too much has already been leaked, so any surprisingly accurate predictions I might make would be suspect. More importantly, though, is that my track record in the predictions department is not as good as Sybil Trelawney's when she's not entranced.

What I do find interesting, though, is the role of the Internet, both in helping to build the popularity of the series, and in the recent information leaks that have so ired the publishers and author. I certainly tip my hat to J.K. Rowling. This is a really good series, in terms of creating a story that can captivate so many millions for so many pages without once mentioning Paris Hilton. Her accomplishment as an author is astounding. Who would have thought a decade ago that 10 year olds would be plowing through 800 page novels?

However, I think a lot of the popularity of these books is due to word of e-mouth. Information and recommendations that used to be spread by face-to-face conversations, letters and phone calls now propagate at light speed, reaching millions in seconds. And the ability to discuss something as entertaining as Rowling's books resulting in people at antipodes of the earth feeling they belonged to the same community ... the community of wand-waving witch and wizard wannabees. (Whew!) Obviously, the traditional media (e.g., movies and TV) contributed, but the role of the Internet in popularizing the story can not be ignored.

Likewise, it's the Internet that's lead to the rash of leaks about book 7 of the series. The fact that any blogger or vanity web site owner can flaunt his or her access by posting restricted information is, in itself, the enticement. Why else spoil this long-awaited book release except for the self-glorification of being in the know?

I think the real lesson is that information security on the Internet is a myth. If the information exists, people will find ways to get it.

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