As I've long suspected, the appearance of a new Harry Potter book doesn't seem to add much to the bottom lines of the retailers involved, be they the big bookstore chains or small independent shops. The impact of a Harry Potter book is felt in the secondary sales that might follow when Potter fans return to the stores for something new to read, still excited about books and the fun that they offer.
Harry Potter has become the ultimate loss leader in the book retailing industry.
It is expected to become the fastest-selling book in history, smashing the record set by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which sold 6.9 million copies within 24 hours of being launched in 2005....
With two and a half months to go, Amazon.com alone has received more than one million 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.
Meanwhile, far from looking forward to the historic launch with fevered anticipation, 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 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," said the managing director of one of the United Kingdom's largest book retailers.
The Harry Potter situation is emblematic of wider shifts going on among book retailers. The emergence of supermarkets as a new force in bookselling has resulted in fearsome price wars surrounding big titles.
...the book will be a tremendous footfall generator, getting people into stores and spending money.I'm seriously thinking about hitting one of the Barnes & Noble stores up here, camera in hand, just to experience some of the craziness of this last Potter frenzy. I'm off to mark it on my calendar...
"We look at Harry Potter in terms of our commercial position. We see it as beyond just a book. The most exciting thing about it is that it will be the biggest day of footfall in the whole year. It is good to see that number of people in the stores and they will like what they see," Johnson said.
One thing is clear though: for retailers, Harry Potter is a decidedly mixed blessing.