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Here comes Harry Potter!

11 July 2005

As the clock strikes midnight and Saturday 16 July begins, thousands of excited children will seize their copies of the new J K Rowling novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, join in the festivities surrounding its publication and race off to start reading the latest instalment of Harry Potter’s story.

The last title, Harry and Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was a worldwide hit, selling 250 million books worldwide. It was translated into 61 languages. The films based on the books have taken £1 billion ($1.737 billion) at the box office and also sold £430 million ($747 million) worth of DVDs.

Last time the UK sales went very much in the supermarkets’ favour, with half of the copies sold in the first week of publication going through the supermarket chain Tesco, which opened 367 branches at midnight. But it was Amazon which took 1.1 million advance orders online.

There has been a lot of discussion in the UK book trade about the supermarkets’ plans to slash the price of this lengthy book from its published price of £16.99 (nearly $30), making it very difficult for independent bookshops to compete. There are rumours that Tesco will at the last minute drop its price to undercut, or at least match, that of Wal-mart-owned Asda, which is currently pricing at £8.96 ($15.55) Outrage has been expressed in the book trade about the ‘wasted’ discount that all book retailers are giving away on a book which is so much in demand that many feel there is no need to cut the price.

The children playing Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron in the films are now quite big teenagers, but there’s a new crop of children to add to the existing fans for each new book. Sales of the adult editions of the Harry Potter books are substantial now.

A just-published survey has shown that teachers believe the books boost children's reading abilities and encourage them to read more widely.  They are also credited with triggering much greater interest in children's literature in the media and in bookshops.  Harry Potter is like a runaway train. It looks as if nothing can stop the sixth instalment being another extraordinary and record-busting success.