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J K Rowling
Kirsty Wigglesworth  /  AP
J.K. Rowling holds her book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," at the Natural History Museum in London.
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updated 6/23/2011 11:47:59 AM ET 2011-06-23T15:47:59

The secret of "Pottermore" has been revealed — Harry Potter's wild wizard adventures are going digital.

Author J.K. Rowling announced Thursday that her seven Potter novels will be sold as e-books starting in October — ending the boy wizard's status as one of the highest-profile holdouts against digital publishing.

"You can't hold back progress," Rowling said. "E-books are here and they are here to stay."

The magical stories that conquered the world in print form will be available as audiobooks and e-books in multiple languages exclusively through a new interactive website called "Pottermore" — an announcement that delighted fans but deeply disappointed booksellers.

Rowling, one of the world's most powerful authors, is bypassing established online retailers like Amazon, although the creators of Pottermore say the books will be compatible with popular e-readers including Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Reader and Apple's iPad.

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"It's very important to Jo to make the books available to everybody, not to make them available only to people who own a particular set of devices, or tethered to a particular set of platforms," said Tom Turcan, chief operating officer of the new venture, Pottermore Ltd.

He said prices for the e-books would be announced closer to October.

The website is a partnership with Sony Corp. and its online shop is described as "a potential outlet for Sony products." Rowling spokesman Mark Hutchinson said Sony was selected as "the most appropriate partner."

Booksellers who have sold millions of Potter books reacted strongly to the news they will be shut out of the electronic version. Jon Howells, spokesman for Britain's Waterstone's chain, said the Harry Potter book launches "have become the stuff of legend at Waterstone's and other booksellers."

"We're therefore disappointed that, having been a key factor in the growth of the Harry Potter phenomenon since the first book was published, the book trade is effectively banned from selling the long-awaited e-book editions," he said.

The Potter books have sold about 450 million copies worldwide and spawned a hit movie franchise and a theme park. Forbes magazine has ranked Rowling as one of the richest women in Britain, with an estimated wealth of $1 billion.

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"Pottermore" has been the subject of intense speculation among Potter fans since it appeared on the Internet with the words "coming soon."

Slideshow: Harry Potter's world comes alive (on this page)

Rowling also has written 18,000 words of new Potter material for the new site, which promises to immerse users in her world of wizards, combining elements of computer games, social networking and an online store. She says the site includes "information I have been hoarding for years" about the books' characters and settings.

The project unveiled in London lets Potter fans delve into the world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sections let users shop for wands in Diagon Alley, travel to Hogwarts from the imaginary Platform 9 3/4 at London's King's Cross train station and be sorted into Hogwarts school houses by the perceptive Sorting Hat.

Along the way are wand fights, games and new information about characters beloved around the world, including Harry's reviled relatives, the Dursleys.

The site goes live July 31, when 1 million registered users will be chosen through an online competition to help flesh out the Pottermore world. It will be open to all users from October, in languages including English, French, German and Spanish.

Initially the site will follow the plotline of the first book, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," with the six other adventures added later.

"(It's) a way I can be creative in a medium that didn't exist when I started the books back in 1990," Rowling told reporters, adding it allowed her to incorporate the thousands of "stories, drawings, ideas, suggestions" she still receives from fans four years after the last Potter book was published.

Video: Exclusive: J.K. Rowling on final 'Potter' (on this page)

Harry Potter fans who have been sharing their enthusiasm online for years should be delighted by the new digital world, but Rowling said she wanted to keep the emphasis of the site firmly on the written word.

"We've had a lot of requests for online games," she said. "I wanted to pull it back to reading."

The last book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," was published in 2007, and Rowling said she still has no plans to write an eighth. But she said Pottermore was a way to reconnect with a character and a universe she loved.

"It is exactly like an ex-boyfriend," Rowling said. "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."

There may yet be another Potter book — a long-anticipated encyclopedia. Rowling said she was still considering compiling one, with the proceeds going to charity.

"Will there ever be an encyclopedia?" Rowling said. "Possibly."

The final Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," has its world premiere in London on July 7. Hutchinson said timing of the website announcement had nothing to do with the Warner Bros. movies.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Radcliffe: Fans will love theme park

Photos: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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  1. The Hogwarts Express arrives in Hogsmeade Station at Universal Orlando Resort's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As guests enter Hogsmeade, they are greeted by the iconic, smoke-billowing steam engine, made famous in the Harry Potter books and films for transporting students to a world of magic and wonder. (Kevin Kolczynski / Universal Orlando) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. As guests pass through the arch into Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they can explore the cobbled streets of the highly themed environment, and will encounter iconic locations from the Harry Potter books and films, like Ollivanders and the majestic Hogwarts castle. (Kevin Kolczynski / Universal Orlando) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Visitors stroll the streets of Hogsmeade in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando theme park. The attraction opens to general admission ticket holders on June 18. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Members of the Hogwarts Choir sing for guests. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features multiple themed attractions, shops and a restaurant. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A clerk, right, at Ollivander's Wand Shop, helps visitors pick out a magic wand. Park guests will have plenty of opportunities to shop for wands, broomstics, scarves and more. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Mounted on the wall of the Hog's Head pub is the hog's head, which will come alive and puff its jowls at visitors. Adjacent to the Three Broomsticks, the Hog's Head pub is where guests can enjoy a cold Butterbeer, pumpkin juice and other beverages. (Kevin Kolczynski / Universal Orlando) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The entrance to Hogwarts Castle is seen at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Hogwarts Castle is seen at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Construction of the park was overseen by the production manager from the Harry Potter movies. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The office of headmaster Albus Dumbledore is intricately displayed at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, author of the Potter books, is a stickler for details, and Universal worked hard to get her OK on the park's attractions. (Kevin Kolczynski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Guests will pass by the regal Griffin statue on their way to Dumbledore's office. (Kevin Kolczynski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Just like the Harry Potter films, portraits line the walls of Hogwarts castle, the home of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. When passing through the Portrait gallery, guests will encounter several magical talking portraits created exclusively for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the four Hogwarts founders. (Kevin Kolczynski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. An authentic replica from the Harry Potter films, guests will pass by Hagrid's hut on their way to the Flight of the Hippogriff family-friendly roller coaster. Just before they board, Hagrid instructs guests on how to properly approach and fly on a Hippogriff. (Kevin Kolczynski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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