Translating Potter

Poynter Online has a story of the first translation of HP7 to hit the Internet —

“The final Harry Potter book was translated in just two days. On the Chinese site yWeekend (see translation by ESWN), high school freshman Xiao Wang explained how he tested and organized the volunteer translators online, via the popular Chinese chat and blogging service QQ.”

“About 200 volunteers have contacted me [via QQ]. We had to give tests to these people. The test material came from English-language paragraphs about Harry Potter taken from overseas websites. Those paragraphs do not appear in the Harry Potter novels themselves. Afterwards, we checked the quality of the translation. We recruited two waves of people, in which about 60 people passed the test. We set up a work schedule of based upon division of labor. Basically, there are four or five people per group. The translation in each chapter has to go through translation, editing, proof-reading and final review. This is to ensure the quality of the translation.”

In a way, what’s most interesting is the organizer’s perspective on the impact such a translation would have on actual sales. To wit – very little negative impact on official hardcopy sales was expected. Left undetermined is whether there might not be some gain to sales through increased exposure.

Wang Xiao says:

Actually, I feel that we have very little impact on the official translation of the book. Genuine Harry Potter friends will always want to buy the official version, because the quality is better and they want to collect it. I had done a poll at the [Harry Potter 7 Bar] about how Harry Potter fans want to read [Harry Potter 7]. More than 100 persons participated, of which almost 70 want to buy the official Chinese-language translation. Only 2 persons said that they will only read the Internet translation.

The original news report (in English translation) also inquires whether there is a potential rights violation:

Lawyer Zheng Yan of the Beijing Haotian Xinhe Legal Office told this reporter: “Suppose that [Harry Potter 7] was released prematurely by overseas booksellers and that overseas netizens obtained the scan images of the original book through legal means. If the translation is done by netizens who include their own creativity and knowledge and they are not doing this for profit, there is no rights violation.”

The basis for distinction on intention to profit is quite interesting.