Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli, J.K. Rowling
Published by Gallery Books on November 4th 2008
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Disclaimer. Just to make it clear: this is not going to be a fan report gushing over the Harry Potter books or fandom.
What I will say though, is that the Harry Potter books and fandom would not have been nearly as successful if not for social media.
Melissa Anelli, a New York-based former reporter and now full-time author, has presented a factual, open-minded story of her time in the fandom. Through Harry, A History an accidental secondary story is told, that is the development of social media. Anelli’s story starts with her discovering the Harry Potter series late (just before the release of book 4 in July 2000) to being the webmistress of the most professional and highly regarded fansite. She is also a co-host of the Harry Potter podcast, PotterCast; and for the media, the voice of the fandom. She has interviewed series author, JK Rowling, several times and is called on by the publishers and movie studios for a fan’s view.
The social media story is given dedicated chapters in Harry, a History but treated as incidental to Anelli’s story. There is the chapter on wizard rock: a fan-created music genre with songs about Harry Potter. Others describe teen fanzine operators’ battles with Warner Bros. Warner Bros sent cease and desist letters to the offending fans. The fans to unite and run an international social media campaign resulting in Warner Bros taking a more collaborative approach with the fans. I loved hearing Anelli’s story of launching PotterCast in August 2006. This was very early days, just after Apple added podcasts to the iTunes store. I was listening along, so this part was my story too.
To many, social media, two-way communications and user-generated content are new inventions. To those in the Harry Potter fandom, these are long-established tools. Harry, a History is a story of social media and its growth. I recommend reading it, not for the fandom or book series, but to understand the development and practical uses of social media. Even in the last couple of months since this book was released the fans are using newer tools like YouTube, Twitter, and blogs. I recommend reading Harry, a History. Who knows you may even learn about social media.