Harry Potter and the Illusion of Moneymaking

By Carmen Comment

I’m really linking to this Sunday Telegraph piece on why many in the book trade are worried sick over the impending release of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS for the left-hand graphic – which sums up said worries rather well, as many retailers are privately fuming that such a huge event will leave them no richer. “It really is incredible that no one apart from JK [Rowling] and Bloomsbury will make a shekel. When you think of the work we have to do and the hoops we have to jump through around the launch, it is unbelievable,” says the managing director of one of the UK’s largest book retailers.

Old news, but the piece spells out what a pickle booksellers are in more clearly than usual. That’s because Bloomsbury set the recommended retail price at 17.99 pounds and offers HP7 to booksellers at anywhere between a 45 to 55 percent discount. But because of price wars between bookstores and supermarkets, the final Harry Potter volume will be sold at half-price or less. Even for those with little interest in number crunching, the math is obvious: zero profit or a loss.

And no matter how much spin there is about the Potter books bringing in potential customers who will then buy more books, that didn’t exactly happen in a large scale when HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX was released in 2005, and Tesco & Asda are even more major players today. So Potter 7, says the Telegraph, “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.” And I’d say that fear is reality, especially in the UK.