Potter fatigue hits some as book sales tallied
LONDON - Bookstores checked their tills on Sunday to tally sales of the sixth Harry Potter installment, but a day after the eagerly awaited global launch the magic was wearing off for some.
The early feedback was bullish. British book chain WH Smith reported sales of 13 books per second across the 391 shops it opened into the early hours of Saturday, compared with eight per second for the fifth Harry Potter adventure.
The launch, at one minute past midnight British time on Saturday, ended months of hype and elaborate steps to protect the contents of the penultimate chapter in the seven-story saga.
Children poured into book shops across the globe, many dressed as witches, wizards and other favorite Harry Potter characters. Author J.K. Rowling read from the book at Edinburgh Castle, and she will be interviewed by a young fan on Sunday.
Underlining the anticipation surrounding the book, instant reviews appeared on the Internet within a few hours of the release, and most of them were favorable.
Young readers picked up on the darkness of the plot.
"With its dramatic, violent conclusion, this book is by far the darkest and unsettling HP yet," wrote 12-year-old Indigo Ellis in the Sunday Telegraph. "Maybe it will leave a few more seven-year-olds in tears. But it also makes it the best so far."
A sizeable minority of older readers, however, was less than impressed by the 607-page work.
"It's wordy, flabby and not very well edited -- perhaps a bit less inventive than previous ones," wrote Suzi Feay, literary editor of Britain's The Independent on Sunday. "We could have done with some better gags."
Robert McCrum, writing in the Observer newspaper, said: "The dominant theme of HP6 is the tying up of loose ends in preparation for the final volume, the fabled HP7."
Publishers and retailers will be less concerned about write-ups than sales.
Eyeing a huge marketing opportunity, publishers issued two hardback versions of the book on Saturday, one for adults and another for children.
Supermarkets, Internet stores and book shops engaged in a fierce round of discounting, with one British outlet offering the book to young buyers for 4.99 pounds ($8.80), less than one third of the recommended retail price.
Rowling has been credited with winning over a new generation of young readers. British newspapers predict that her fortune, already estimated at $1 billion, was set to grow by 20 to 25 million pounds as a result of the first-day sales alone.
"In these days of instant, easy celebrity attained by very little actual achievement, J.K. Rowling is a refreshing exception," wrote the Sunday Mirror tabloid.
For some, though, Sunday was about bursting the bubble of hype and secrecy surrounding the biggest book launch retailers around the world can remember.
When a handful of copies were sold before the deadline in Canada, purchasers were ordered not to disclose its contents, and, according to media reports, even to read it.
"Oh for a timely spell of reality," Roland White wrote in the Sunday Times.
"Let's keep things in perspective," he added. "Until Friday, the Harry Potter series had sold about 270 million copies worldwide. Which is considerably less than the one billion shifted by the late, rather unfashionable, Barbara Cartland."