Chinese bookworms going potty about Potter

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-21 06:55

Across the country, something strange is happening.

Bookstores are opening for business at 7 o'clock this morning, two hours earlier than usual.

The reason: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the eagerly awaited seventh and final installment, is due out today.

And like children around the world, Chinese youngsters can't wait to start reading it, which is certain to make the Harry Potter series the best-selling foreign language books in the country's history.

"Never has an English language book attracted such great attention as Harry Potter," said Liang Jianrui, vice-president of the China National Publications Import and Export Corporation, China's largest foreign book trader.

The company has imported 50,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, or about half of the total imports of the books in China.

The figure is in sharp contrast with the company's imports of one of the New York Times bestsellers of about 100 copies.

The hardback book, available at retailers, 800 newspaper vendors in Beijing and online book retailers, has US and UK versions. The two versions are slightly different in terms of layout and illustrations, Liang said.

The popularity of the Harry Potter books in English has been a result of Chinese people's improved English skills and more frequent cultural exchanges in recent years.

"We didn't create the demand," said Liang. "The demand creates this miracle."

"All of our stock has been preordered by retailers. The book will hit a record."

The UK version is priced at 208 yuan and the US one at 218 yuan ($28.60), which is lower than 17.99 pounds in the United Kingdom and $34.99 in the United States.

The books arrived in Beijing on July, where they have been stored in boxes reading, "Don't open until July 21".

"It is fantastic and exciting to know that Chinese readers are interested in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," said Lucy Holden, head of Children's Publicity at Bloomsbury, the book's British publisher.

"There is huge excitement about the book. I hope readers in China will enjoy reading it," she told China Daily in telephone interview.

(China Daily 07/21/2007 page1)

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