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Pottermania takes over

16 June 2003

The biggest book of the year is making a serious bid to become the biggest book of any year. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be released at midnight on Midsummer's Day, 21st June, to the accompaniment of huge excitement and enormous presales.

The 768 page book, with around 255,000 words, is huge by the standards of children's books, but so is everything else about the Harry Potter phenomena. By publication there will be 13 million copies of 'Harry 5' in print, around 8.5 million in the US and 2.5 million in the UK, with around twice that number to come in foreign editions. Amazon has taken advance orders of 875,000 copies, far exceeding the sales of any book in its history.

Harry has also sparked a price war. In the UK there's been anxious discussion in the trade press about the biggest seller in history being discounted so heavily in the battle for market share that no-one will make any money from it. In the UK British Bookshops have laid down the gauntlet with a £9.99 price (the publisher's price is £16.99). W H Smith's, Borders and Ottakar's will all discount it to £11.99. But it is the supermarkets, determined to benefit after slow distribution meant lost sales last time, which will take the most cutthroat approach. Tesco is already selling online at £7.64 and the supermarkets see it as a perfect loss leader, a bonanza to bring shoppers into the stores.

But not everyone is united in their enthusiasm for this giant superseller. Some American publishers see it as a chance to sell books to adults once they are in the bookstores. J P Morgan is forecasting disappointment. Their survey shows that some fans do not intend to buy the new book and suggest that it may fail to live up to its advance hype. But 190 million copies sold of previous Harry titles is an awful lot of books. Even after the three-year wait, a lifetime to young readers, the Harry Potter magic looks set to cast its spell all over again.