Much has been made of the massive effort Scholastic, Harry Potter’s publisher in the United States, has made to keep the final book secret till it is revealed (and sold!) to all on July 21. Scholastic says it is to keep the plot from becoming known and spoiling it for all those Potter fans out there. (The cynic in me wonders if it isn’t to create more hype and sell more books. After all, on July 22, anyone can be a spoiler by putting key plot points on the web.)
Nonetheless, Time magazine’s article on Scholastic’s efforts concludes with an interesting reflection on what in fact does make reading enjoyable.
On this point, both hacker and publisher share a key misunderstanding of what reading is all about. People read books for any number of reasons; finding out how the story ends is one among many and not even the most important. If it were otherwise, nobody would ever bother to read a book twice. Reading is about spending time with characters and entering a fictional world and playing with words and living through a story page by page. The idea that someone could ruin a novel by revealing its ending is like saying you could ruin the Mona Lisa by revealing that it’s a picture of a woman with a center part. Spoilers are a myth: they don’t spoil. No elaborate secrecy campaign is going to make Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows any better than it already is, and no website could possibly make it useless and boring.