Monday, 23 July 2007

Harry Potter and The Bottom Line

Like many people around the world I picked up the final Harry Potter book on Saturday. While some picked it up and treasured it, determined to make every page count and so on, I got it with the sole aim of reading it as quickly as possible - both for enjoyment and so that I finished it before both my sister and my friend Chris (I tell myself that the latter wasn't as important... I tell myself that).

I thought that it was a pretty good book all in all. I don't want to spoil it for people who haven't read it yet, or who are still working their way through, but I do want to say that despite having a first half which seemed pretty sparse on plot advancement though heavy on incidents, the book had a second half which more than made up for it, with plots tied up neatly and with some real revelations as well. What I thought was really interesting coming out of book six - Is Snape really a bad guy? Who is R.A.B.? - was that I was right but for the wrong reasons. The resolution of subplots happened but for completely different reasons to those that I thought, and that made it very interesting.

Various newspapers and websites are making a great hullabaloo about the number of copies sold, or about how much money JK Rowling now has etc, but I think for me an important point, second to enjoying the final book, was the final line of this article on the BBC website:

"I like Harry Potter, but it's a shambles as far as the retailing trade is concerned because nobody makes any profit."

Harry Potter may be a publishing phenomenon, but the only way that booksellers really make any money out of it is by hoping that customers will go back to their shops for repeat business. I don't know of a single shop that was selling the book for more than half the RRP - I'm not saying that there is anything intrinsically bad about the customer getting a good deal, but it creates a distorted picture of the state of book sales and profits I think. The money in Harry Potter has come from the films and associated merchandise in the end, and perhaps in the end that will unfortunately be the thing that people remember about Harry Potter.

I do have a small hope that they will remember a good read first and foremost.

1 comment:

noisms said...

When I went to ASDA the other day a staff member ambushed me with a copy.

"Harry Potter Book mate?"

"I'd rather flog myself senseless! Thanks all the same!"

(Is what I wish I'd said.)