So it turns out that the bidder at yesterday's Sotheby's auction who paid £1.95 million for the handwritten manuscript of J.K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard was…Amazon.com! The online bookseller has a proud page up at its site already and promises more photos and information in the near future.
What Amazon doesn't promise, though, is that you'll ever get to read the book. In the customer forums for Beedle the Bard, Amazon declares that they intend to take the book on tour to classrooms so that children can see the book. But presumably those children won't get to read more than a page or two of the book at any given time; the tour seems to benefit Amazon in that it will help to teach children that books are expensive, precious objects, rather than, you know, tools to deliver ideas or stories.
But don't worry! You can still learn the stories in Beedle the Bard, without any of the distracting magic of reading the book itself, because Amazon is posting detailed reviews of the stories. Oh, good — we'd much rather read synopses by random Amazon employees than Rowling's actual words.
We know we're getting overly worked up about this. After all, J.K. Rowling didn't even have to write this book and is certainly entitled to distribute her work any way she likes. But if she really wanted to create a charitable windfall, she should have sold Beedle the Bard in stores; after all, in its first day in bookstores, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.4 million copies. And we maintain that it's a poor thank-you to your fans to write a book and then refuse to let anyone read it, other than the glove-wearing employees of the rich corporation who outbid everyone else.