Official Author Web sites

The idea of this post originated while I was surfing through various author site looking for some useful stuff. I felt most official Web sites of celebrities are devoid of any substance. They are almost always mundane, put up as a promotional exercise or a money-making enterprise. While some make a beutiful web site with little content. Here is a Web site review of few mainstream authors.

J. K. Rowling

This billionaire writer, who has recently been news more for the controversies she evoked than the books she wrote, has a amazingly designed Web site. However, it can be bit slow to download on slow connections. It also provides you five other language options (which were of no use to me, though πŸ™‚ ).

This site does not seem to be updated very often. You can find a brief biography of J. K. Rowling with her pictures in an animated diary. Butterflies, spiders and bugs move occasionally on the web site, making the design interesting. πŸ™‚ And you bet, there is a member’s section called W.O.M.B.I.T.

Her site has some extra stuff like brief edits, thoughts on development of her characters, and some F.A.Qs. where she answers some questions about her books, plots and characters. But she pleads that even if she stops eating and starts signing books, it would not be possible for her to meet all signing requests! Hmm, …mammoth problem for a mammoth author. πŸ™‚

By the way, she does respond to the law suit on durga puja pandal resembling a Hogwarths in Rubbish section. πŸ˜‰ (She has also categorized news about her as toxic rubbish, stinking rubbish etc.) There is a animated bookshelf on the site that has links to her publisher and charities she supports. I learnt about cage beds used in Czech social care institutions. I didn’t know anything like that existed. But going by Salman in movie Tere Naam, a worse form of it exists in India too.

Rating: 3.5/5 (2.5 for animated design and 1 for the content)

Paulo Cohelo

Brazilian Author Paulo Cohelo’s web site is offered in various languages. The web site has small fonts. Yet it has some specific highlights. It has a decently updated blog. His latest book The Witch of Portobello is provided free on his blog. The blog also journals his journey on Road to Santiago, an experience that would later be recorded in his book The Pilgrimage. You can read interesting tidbits (For example, the first publisher of his celebrated book, The Alchemist, had refused to reprint as it was not selling!), downloading a illustrated PDF file of his biography from the site. There are more free goodies as his book Maktub, collection of his short stories in the Free Downloads section. You can send free ecards as these from his blog:

His web site has a personal photo gallery that has good number of his pictures. It would interest only a hardcore Cohelo fan. Or, am I wrong?

Rating: 3/5 (1 for design and 2 for the content)

Mitch Albom

I almost didn’t think it was his official Web site. It more looked like a promotional Web site put together for his second fiction book, For One More Day. (He has three other official book sites and a interview/radio web site). The Web site proclaims that if you liked Five People You Met in Heaven, you will like For One More Day. It goes without saying that you can read a excerpt from the book on the Web site. His Facebook and MySpace memberships are glaringly displayed on his otherwise small-fonted Web site.

The site also provides links to his columns and articles. He was a sports columnist at Detroit Free Press. There is a controversy associated with his tenure as columnist. Something his web site does not tell you, but was in news. He once printed a false story about the sports event that never happened. You can read it here. I particularly thought that it was deceitful, fudging the facts while reporting a story.

Back to his Web site, you can find usual promotional stuff (interview, video, catalogue of work, two brief blogs) on his Web site, but there is not any content. Lastly, worth noting is Charities tab. There is a link for Time to Help, where they run a project every month for underprivileged. This part of the site is diligently updated with details.

Rating: 2/5 (1for design with too small font and 1 for the content)

Jeffery Archer

His is a usual Web site with passable design (with that yuck small font) and usual links to publishers and store. His picture on the home page reminds of a familiar villain I might have encountered in a Hollywood movie. And no, I am not saying it because he has served in prison for two years on charges of perjury. I downloaded PDf file of his colourful bigraphy. Other worthwhile thing that I found on this Web site was Jeffery Archer’s blog. The recent entry is about his trip to India. He writes about Osho’s ashram, meeting R. K. Laxman, other fans and much more. His blog, keeps updating, so it will be in my reader for sometime. πŸ™‚

Rating: 2.5/5 (1for design with too small font and 1.5 for the content, read worthwhile blog)

Richard Dawkins

I first awakened to Richard Dawkins when I was at school and deep into organizing and participating in quizzes. I heard about his book, The Selfish Gene. To be honest, I am a fiction lover, so I never read it. But I did notice when this guy kept churning our more bestseller books like The Blind Watchmaker and A David’s chaplain.

The first impression about his web site is that it is HUGELY CLUTTERED. I almost had a headache. But if you explore patiently, overlooking the clutter, you will find a repository of articles on reason and science on his Web site. There is a separate tab, under Archives section, for articles written by Richard Dawkins himself. One article that caught my attention was if science is killing our souls. I looked eagerly in Maths section and there was nothing. Coming Soon!

You can read the first chapter of almost all his books for free in the sidebar. The site has huge load of information including videos, podcasts, interviews, catalogue of upcoming events. Last but not the least, his web site has a link to store where you can buy his book and also a Donate tab meant for Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Rating: 3.5/5 (.5 for cluttered design and 3 for the content)

Roald Dahl

A really delightful web site that is easy on your computer. The best section is the one about Roald Dahl himself: it has his last interview, slideshow of his pictures, his biography, an engaging quiz about the author, and teaching resources.

Site also has a activities section called Treats for members and a brief daily telegraph blog that updates you about events/news related to Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl store and book search is also delightfully done. Site is a must watch for graphic designer.

Rating: 4.5/5 (2.5 for delightful and simple design and 2 for the interesting presentation of content. You want to know more. ) Winner!!

I will review other commercial authors, some lesser known, later.

17 Responses to “Official Author Web sites”

  1. 1 Suda May 29, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Wow, I liked the last one!! I have rarely seen websites like that. Good analysis alchemist πŸ˜€

  2. 2 Xylene May 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I liked the last one too ! that was a treat indeed.
    thanx for the links Poonam

  3. 3 Nishu May 29, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    nice comics like haphazard look for the last website ..

    but i like rowling’s website for easter eggs

  4. 4 Nita May 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    A very interesting and unusual post Poonam. I loved it! You have worked hard on it too. I like the way you have given marks for the sites…I guess usability is a very important thing and I don’t know why more people don’t realise it. However good the content, and however pretty the site, it needs to be easy to use for the user.

  5. 5 Reema May 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Wow! U have done good research..thanks for the links…I agree..the last one is a winner

  6. 6 Shefaly May 29, 2008 at 7:24 pm


    It must be the spell-check Gremlins at work. Dawkins’s book is called “A Devil’s Chaplain” not “A David’s Chaplian” as the Gremlins have determined… 😎

  7. 7 Liju Philip May 30, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Hey, thanks for the great compilation. Though i have hardly read any of the authors you have mentioned above. Jeffrey Archer’s blog seems really interesting.

  8. 8 Terry Finley May 30, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I like this article. It gives me ideas.

  9. 9 Poonam Sharma May 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

    @Suda, Xylene: Glad that you agree, I guess J. K. Rowling;s site would be runner up!

    @Nishu: yup, J. K. Rowling’s site would be runner up! It does has great design.

    @Nita: You have a point about usability. It is important. For me, usability was part of design. I also think that I am not very good judge of that, as I fond most of these sites equally easy on usability. Everything functional on these sites was glaringly obvious, perhaps because the sites are meant to be promotional as well.

    @Reema: yeah, and first one can be runner up!

    @Shefaly: Corrected 8)

    @Liju: I can’t believe you have not read any of them, you are quite a book lover. Start with Archer and Albom. I found Archer’s description of his India visit in his blog very interesting. Rest could be an account of his promotional activities.

    @Terry: It would be great to find out what this post inspired you to do. πŸ™‚

  10. 10 Sachin May 30, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Roald Dahl is cool………. nice post and very different

  11. 11 Ashish May 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I like Rowling’s site, but yeah its sloooooow. I’ve visited Tolkien’s too but I don’t know if it was an official website or a fansite. Been a few years.

    Great post though! πŸ™‚

  12. 12 Liju Philip May 31, 2008 at 7:23 am

    I have read Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “5 people you meet in heaven”. I will never read JK Rowling because i hate her books and the movies made on it with a capital ‘H’ πŸ˜‰

    Have read Alchemist and 11 minutes of Paulo Cohelo. Didnt find him so interesting to continue. Same with Mitch Albom. Think i should try out Archer now. Maybe you can suggest one of his good ones and i will pick up on my next trip to Hyderabad. Books are pretty costly in Singapore you see πŸ˜‰

  13. 13 Amit May 31, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Rowling’s and Dahl’s site are good. I liked the designs of both. Completely opposite but equally interesting. πŸ™‚

  14. 14 Harsha May 31, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    For some reason, roald’s website is nice.. but isn’t that taking too much time to load which is generally not preferrable.. BTW.. nice article!

  15. 15 ish June 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Website reviews, ah! I need to start re-doing them at some point. I agree with everything you’ve said about the websites. Most of them do tend to be on the showy side and have small fonts. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of flash based websites. I’m happier to have more content than design. And that’s why I don’t really fancy any of the Potter websites. They’re all rather happy. And why does Rowling’s website have to open in a new popup? that’s insane.

    Roald Dahl’s website is just about perfect.

  16. 16 Poonam Sharma June 2, 2008 at 10:15 am

    @Sachin, Ashish: Thanks! πŸ™‚

    @Liju: If you didn’t like Cohelo and Albom, means you are not one for inspirational books. Good to know that. You can read Archer’s Kane and Able (his most famous book), The Prodigal Daughter (sequel to Kane and Able), Not a Penny More-Not a Penny Less(book that first got him fame). You can download an ebook and read. OR you too can’t stand them?

    @Amit: Agree Completely. πŸ™‚

    @Harsh: Roald’s Web site downloads fater as compared to J. K. Rowling’s Web site. Isn’t that so for you? Good to know that you liked the post. πŸ™‚

    @Ish: Yes, it would be good to do more Web site reviews. πŸ™‚ Yes, Rowling’s Web site should get less on usability. Because a section opens in new window, you need to re-enter her web site to access the main page. That is sure to increase the number of hits though.

    Yes, Roald’s site is interesting, pleasing as well as high on usability and impact.

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