Sunday, May 13, 2007

Potter 7, Bookstores 0

Pottermania is returning. Call me a grumpy old man, but I can’t wait to see the back of this pesky and annoying schoolboy. So hope is at hand with Potter 7, the final installment of these odd and irritating books.

I have taken cursory glances at the Harry Potter books, and found J. K. Rowling’s work not to my taste. I also find the sight of adults reading these works on packed commuter trains bemusing, worrying and, contrary to popular opinion, I feel these books do more harm than good for the book trade. My opinion is shared by many in the world of publishing as The Sunday Telegraph explains:
It will be the biggest publishing event of the millennium so far. At midnight on July 20, pandemonium will engulf bookshops the length and breadth of Britain as cape-wearing kids with owls on their shoulders and scars on their foreheads fight to get their hands on the new Harry Potter book.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of J.K. Rowling’s monstrously successful franchise about the boy wizard and his inquisitive chums, is on track to be the biggest pre-ordered book of all time. It is also expected to become the fastest selling book in history, smashing the record set by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which sold 6.9m copies within 24 hours of being launched in 2005. With two and a half months to go, alone has received more than 1m pre-orders.
Potter 7, as Deathly Hallows is known in the trade, should provide a huge boost to book stores. After all, fat sales should equal fat profits. But Hogwarts is not the gold mine it might seem. Indeed, for all the hype and bluster, the book might as well be retitled Harry Potter and the Damp Squib as far as retailers’ profits are concerned. Due to rampant discounting, few shops selling the book, from Waterstone's to Tesco and Amazon down to small independents, will make any money. Most will break even and many will make a loss.
The only party that stands to make any money from Harry’s escapades is Bloomsbury, the books’ publisher, which is expected to make £7m of profit from the book this year.
I have never understood the mass hysteria of Pottermania, and find it very annoying. At the same time, I’m confused as to the appeal of Potter and company to adults.

My feeling is that many of these adult Potter readers probably only read these books, and rarely explore outside the letter ‘R’ in their bookstore shelves. The idea that the Pottermania creates a “footfall” of non-readers entering bookstores to me sounds like the hollow voice of desperation of an industry besieged by competition from DVD, Playstation, Internet and the pressures of modern life.

The Telegraph seems to agree:
Book insiders say that retailers persist at selling Potter so cheaply because it creates the perception that they are good value. They are also “obsessed” with gaining market share. Some booksellers have cast doubt on claims that the Potter "halo" leads to an increase in overall book sales. One even argues that the opposite is the case: Potter sales lead to a reduction in kids’ book sales as they cannibalise sales of other titles. “If you strip Harry Potter sales out of a so-called Harry Potter year, then the kids’ book market actually shows a decline in sales,” says one executive.

There are other Harry-related factors that could lead to headaches for book retailers this summer.
In keeping with previous practice, Bloomsbury will cap the amount of returns that it will accept from retailers at 10 per cent of their original order. This means that if greedy chains have ordered too many Potters, they are stuck with them. A knock on effect, and one that occurred in 2005, is that other publishers’ titles will be shunted aside as the retailers shift excess Potter stock.

So Potter 7 is being treated with a mixture of excitement and anxiety among book retailers. Excitement because the book will bring people flooding into their stores. But anxiety because retailers fear that the days of no-profit blockbusters could be here to stay.
Among small retailers, this anxiety is exacerbated by potential looming consolidation in the wholesale sector. However Trevor Bish-Jones, Woolworths’ chief executive and the man who wants to bring this consolidation about, is at pains to reassure booksellers that this is not the case. He says that far from raising prices to independent booksellers, he would like to reduce them if the deal goes through. “I want to offer indies the same price that we can offer supermarkets,” he says.

Such a move would level a very bumpy playing field. Whether that happens remains to be seen. One thing is clear though: for most retailers, Harry Potter is a decidedly mixed blessing.
The Telegraph piece is here.


Blogger Miss Mo said...

It is unfair to say that adults who read Harry Potter don't read anything else.
I have read all the books so far and am pleased to say I didn't pay for any of them, my local librarians know me very well and I have a varied taste when it comes to my book choices.
Just because you don't like the books doesn't mean no one else should. Stop being a snob.

Monday, May 14, 2007 4:15:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah: what *she* said! Except the not paying part: except for the last one, which I got as I birthday present, I've proudly shelled out all that was necessary for all of the books. And happily. And I've been an adult for a very long time.

Monday, May 14, 2007 10:39:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Jeff said...

I have to agree with Miss Mo ..... in my case, I began reading HP to get a better sense of what my kids were reading - yet I found plenty to entertain me, in the process, just as I did with Mary Stewart's novels

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 2:45:00 PM PDT  
Blogger vom dinnia said...

hello from switzerland! :-)

i read only once harry potter and was so disappointed (as adult) due to the simple writing the book provided. as lots of adults told me what a great book it is (and all of them) i thought, so many people cannot be wrong. well....i did not finish the book and have to admit: i prefer the movies instead. i think they're even better than the books. at least to me....


Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:11:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you did not finish the books. That is kind of the purpose of starting to read a book. Its like judging a boxing match and only seeing half of the fight.

Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:39:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude. i'm only 13 years old, and i live in Australia, and i have an opinion that should be heard aswell.

you're probably thinking - ok, a child would be crazed by the release of HP 7. and that is true - for i am one of those people.

but i would like to point out that many do not seem to be psyched about the release of the latest book.

but of all the people i have asked, i must say, with astonnishing results, that, you, Mr whatever are the most conceited in your opinion.

Its highly unfair that you should accuse Harry potter of being such rubbish, because, for your information, most of the world doesnt seem to think so.

Harry Potter is a great pass time- no matter however many times you may read it, you will find new things, things that probably didnt even occur to you.

Buts that going a bit too far, isnt it? You neveer even finised reading it - probably because your tinyy little brain couldn't handle the pressure.

So, might i ask, what the hell is your bloody problem about this? What do you have against Harry Potter? What did it ever do to you? And, specifically, why does it have to be Harry Potter?

What is it about this simple yet complex story about teenage wizards that puts you off so much? Why does it offend you so?

harry potter was devised for a good read, not for it to be critised in such a manner that it would hardly pass of as constructive criticism.

I say, old man, go back to your coop and read your yellow paged, smelly history books.

And its not like we read only Harry Potter - I, infact, have read a vast amount of books, from various authors and genres. i have an excitement for many upcoming releases - Meyer, Horowitz, Westerfeld, the list goes on.

So you might wanna open up your little boxed mind and see whats going on around you - not everyone thinks the way you do.

And i didnt pay for all my books either - in fact, i only have two, and one was a birthday present. if it pleases you, i am ordering the 7th book.

and much to your dismay, no one else from my vicinity is.

Sunday, May 27, 2007 12:06:00 AM PDT  
OpenID JenniMikiT said...

I'm with Jeff on the kid part. I began reading HP because my oldest son was interested in the movies. I'd heard a lot of negative, so I watched the first movie with him and found it fascinating. The second movie came along, and I did the same. Then I won the first four books and devoured them. No, the writing is not the best in the world, but the mystery and the way it's woven together - that's where Jo shows her talent. It's quite complicated and hard to keep all of that detail in line through a whole book, much less seven novels.

I'm also with Miss Mo. Your snobbery is astounding. You are certainly welcome to your own opinion, but I think, quite frankly, you should lighten up a bit. We may be adults, but sometimes it's good to remember what it's like being a child, if only through a story.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 7:06:00 AM PDT  

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