The multi-billion dollar Harry Potter phenomenon

Visiting the news shop in my local neighbourhood this lunchtime, I noticed the new Harry Potter book on display in the window.

Heh! ‘Noticed’ isn’t the word – this display took up the whole window area. Other displays inside the shop as well with copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Princeeverywhere you looked.

Today is the day of the official launch of the latest Harry Potter blockbuster, which launched at midnight GMT. Thousands of kids (and not so kids) worldwide snapped up their copies, with ten million expected to be sold worldwide within 24 hours, according to a BBC report, including two million in the UK:

Book retailer Waterstone’s opened 140 of its stores at midnight and online retailer Amazon received 350,000 advance orders in the UK alone. Britain’s WH Smith chain, which took half a million advance orders for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, said it sold at a rate of 13 copies per second overnight. Royal Mail said 150 extra trucks shifted more than 500,000 copies of the book from warehouses across the UK for delivery on Saturday.

Quite a phenomenon. As is the author of all the books, JK Rowling. What a rags-to-riches tale with someone who, according to the Sunday Times 2005 Rich List, now has a net worth of ₤500 million (€728m / $876m) and has become the world’s richest author and the richest woman in the UK.

The Harry Potter books, movies and merchandise make up a massive billion-dollar-plus global industry which has generated millions of sales and been credited with reviving children’s interest in reading.

And on that last point, The Financial Times’ editorial leader today says it all:

[…] So is the whole phenomenon nothing more than a triumph of marketing? Would that it were so, for then you could sell anything.

But although a lot of clever marketing has gone into the Harry Potter brand – the decision to use Joanne Rowling’s initials instead of her first name to avoid putting off boy readers, the secrecy over the plots, the midnight launches – children do not read long works of fiction and recommend them to friends because they have been suckered by the marketers. They do it because they enjoy them.

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One thought on “The multi-billion dollar Harry Potter phenomenon

  1. I heard on the radio this morning that JK Rowling made $36 million in royalties this weekend alone! Crazy eh? I have to admit though, her books are fantastic. I bought Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on Saturday and am 125 pages in already…

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