Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Publishing Industry

In what appears to be a concerted effort to have 10 days of Harry Potter news, the substitute on Keith Olbermann's show did a piece last night reporting that kids reading Harry Potter are not making the transition to reading other things. I'm under the impression that the conclusion comes because there hasn't been other huge sales in the book industry.

A. What a shame if kids stop reading because Harry's story is done.

B. What's the source of this information? How much research has really been done?

As it happens, my trainer and I had a conversation about how Harry has encouraged reading while I was doing my lesson on the Arab Prince. It seems that Harry Potter was a godsend in her household because her stepdaughter had no interest in reading until Harry came along. Now she reads everything. This was good news to my trainer because, like me, she considers books to be among her best friends. She was also happy to be assured by me that there will be films Six and Seven. For some reason, the stepdaughter thought Five would be the last film. No, no. The kids are signed for the next two and filming begins quite soon.

So my anecdotal information (and I have heard similar stories from other parents) is 180 degrees off from the news report. I would just like to know their methodology. Maybe book sales haven't increased because books are so expensive and kids are going to the library instead?

Or, horror of horrors (I mean this), they are reading scanned books on-line, along with all of the Harry Potter fan fiction which is out there.

For six years, I was the lawyer for the Science Fiction Writers of America. During that time, I had a relationship with the lawyer from Scholastic, because I would notify him every time I found one of the Potter books uploaded to a share site. I'm not sure they took the problem seriously until Goblet of Fire was released and it was on-line only about two days later.

I'm sorry, but I do believe that there is an effect on sales when the material can be found for free. It may not hurt J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, but there's a lot of what used to be called "mid-list" writers for whom those lack of sales causes real harm. That's not information wanting to be free, that's stealing entertainment.

And it could also be skewing the information on whether or not kids are reading beyond Harry Potter.

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