Saturday, February 03, 2007

You Might Want to Avoid Bookstores on July 21

I read part of the first Harry Potter book out of curiosity. When flipping television channels, I've stopped to watch maybe ten minutes each of a couple of the Potter movies. So I'll admit that I'm not much of a fan of J.K. Rowling's mega-selling series. And because of my limited exposure to her work, I don't think that I really understood the impact that she has had on the book business, in general, and how many serious young readers she may have created in the last few years. Or is something like this just part of all the hype surrounding her books?

"Not only will this be the biggest selling book, it will also break all records to become the fastest selling book of all time," said children's manager Wayne Winstone.

The chain expects half-a-million copies to have flown off the shelves on day one alone.

"There are not many people who want to wait weeks to find out what happens, and risk hearing the news from their friends," he said.

And the store's teenage-books buyer, Debbie Williams, warned, "This could be a similar moment to when Take That split up - there could be a lot of upset teenagers out there.

"We are looking at setting up a helpline for them."
Rowling is hinting that one or more of the main characters will be killed off in this final Potter book to be released to the public on July 21. And her readers love the characters to such an extent that people are planning ways to limit the expected trauma that Potter fans will experience. I may not personally appreciate the books, but I have to admire what Rowling has done to excite the imagininations and to increase the reading skills of so many children. Nice job...and it pays well since I've now heard that Rowling is the second richest woman in the world. Can that be true?


  1. As I said before, I didn't get why these books are so popular. I couldn't get through the first chapter because it was so poorly written.

    As for the impact on bookstores, it's been huge, but I don't think it's a positive impact. It's a lemming impact. The store i work for has been taking orders for over a month, using a fake ISBN#. We're opening at midnight for a Harry Potter party on July 21 so kids can get their books the minute they're available.

    BUT, will those kids be buying anything else? No. Rowling hasn't created a new generation of readers, she's helped perpetuate that you have to do what everyone else is doing to be cool. These kids aren't reading because they want to read; they're reading so they can talk about Harry Potter with everone else. I've heard so many parents say they don't really approve of the books, but it's the only thing their kid will read. The kids aren't readers, they're followers, groupies.

    Sorry for the rant here, but working in a bookstore has made this a pet peeve of mine; it disgusts me. I've been sick of and annoyed with Harry Potter for 8 or 9 years now. Thank God this is the last book!

  2. Sorry to hear that the kids aren't moving on to other books when they finish with the current Potter book. I was hoping that they are so excited about the potential of finding something that they enjoy as much as a Potter book that they would become real readers...not just fad followers.

    My only gripe about the books is that they are surrounded by so much hype that they soon became just another media creation, IMO. They seem to be OK books (I do know that some parents aren't crazy about the witchcraft involved)but nothing all that special. I'm willing to cut Rowling some slack if she's doing anything to create new readers and if the bookstores are making the kind of profit from her books that make a difference to their survival. But I suspect that the chains discount the books so much that the independent stores don't sell enough of them to matter much to their bottom lines...and that the chains don't really net all that much either, especially if, as you say, the kids don't return to the store until the next Potter book appears.

  3. Personally, I am a fan of the Harry Potter series, and I think that the series is creating a generation of readers. At the least, I have been able to point some Harry Potter fans to Tolkien, Lewis, and from there to Le Guin, Pratchett, and Gaiman. Of course, I'm talking about older readers (15 and up).

    I understand the problem of conformity, but children and young adults conform to a great deal of negative habits (think undereating, drugs, sex, idiocy), so I'm happy that they are finally conforming to a positive habit.

    As for the parental problems with the witchcraft in the books, that whole issue makes me very put it mildly. Harry Potter teaches morals that are widely accepted as "good" - stand up for what's right even if it's easier to let bad things happen, be yourself and don't worry about what others think of you, friendship is important, and so on. The idea that the books somehow corrupt the reader is ridiculous.

    Just some of my thoughts.

  4. I hear you, Trisha. I have a hard time understanding parents who worry so much about their children being exposed to things like witchcraft, even to Satanism, in books. Those things exist and you can't hide from them so it's best to understand them and know that they are out there. Refusing to let a child participate in Halloween, for example, is counter-productive, IMO.

    I don't know enough about the Potter books to have a strong opinion about their content but my little exposure to them indicates that they are in the mode of a classic confrontation between the forces of good and evil, with good generally winning the struggle.

  5. I haven't been able to get through the books, but I've seen the movies, there is magic, but nothing more horrible or anything. I have OTHER problems with the books. ;)

  6. I figured that you did, Anne. What bothers you about them? I don't care for the writing, for instance, but I realize that the books are targeting young readers. That's why the books (plus the plots) bore me...I'm just not into fantasy books at all. Heck, I even hate the Tolkien books...all of them.

  7. I'm not a big fantasy fan either (though Tolkein and C.S. Lewis are the exception), but the writing is the main thing that bothers me. I understand that they're geared for kids, but what I've read is on the level of "See Spot Run." The target age group should be well above that; on top of which, so many adults are obsessed with them... why? I guess I don't get it. I see people in the bookstore just going crazy over these books, and I just can't help but think there's so much out there that's so much better. I try to steer them towards other books and they won't even look twice. It frustrates and saddens me.

    The obsessive quality I see in some of these people scares me as well, but I guess that's not the books' fault.

    I'm honest enough to admit that I'm also annoyed with dealing with the books and their fans at the bookstore. I'm sure it colors my judgement, unfortunately. If I hadn't had 3 years of dealing with it, I'd probably just strongly dislike the books rather than hating them.

  8. You hit on one of the pet peeves I have about the books...they are largely media creations, just like what Oprah Winfrey can do for a particular book. I'm curious to see how much the book about Potier sells because I absolutely despise the man's politics and firmly believe that he went off the deep end several years ago. So it will be disgustingly interesting to see him make a fortune off of the book.

  9. Exactly. Poitier's book was originally releases in like 2001 or something, but now that Oprah says it's good, it's the book everyone has to have. She already made a rich man man out of liar, James Frey; I think she's done enough.