New Potter Book Breaks Sales Records
Jul 17, 4:35 PM (ET)
By HILLEL ITALIE
NEW YORK (AP) – The new Harry Potter book sold an astonishing 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours, smashing the record held by the previous Potter release. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" averaged better than 250,000 sales per hour, more than the vast majority of books sell in a lifetime.
"This is a cause for celebration, not just for Scholastic, but for book lovers everywhere," said Lisa Holton, president of Scholastic Children's Books, Rowling's U.S. publisher.
Sales for the sixth installment of J.K. Rowling's fantasy series easily outpaced those for Potter V, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which came out in 2003 and sold 5 million copies in the first 24 hours. Acknowledging that some stores quickly ran out of books two years ago, Scholastic has already increased the print run for "Half-Blood Prince" from 10.8 million copies to 13.5 million.
The Scholastic numbers are for the United States only. Sales figures from Britain are expected Monday.
Anticipated from the moment fans finished Potter V, the new book has been available virtually everywhere, from price clubs and supermarkets to the Scholastic Web site. Holton said Sunday that a big factor in the new sales record was a six-fold increase in the number of Potter bookstore parties, from 800 to 5,000, with both superstores and independent retailers dramatically increasing their participation.
Even allowing for deep discounts on the $29.99 release, "Half-Blood Prince" still easily generated more than $100 million in revenue. It's not only the richest opening in publishing history, but tops the combined estimated take for the weekend's top two movies, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "The Wedding Crashers."
"When a book beats out movies, we're in great shape," Holton said.
Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, said he did not believe that Potter pulled kids away from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which starred Johnny Depp as the reclusive candy king Willy Wonka.
"With a $55 million opening, it's hard to say anything had a negative affect on the movie's performance," Dergarabedian said Sunday. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was the biggest debut ever for Depp, topping the $46.6 million opening weekend of his 2003 hit "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."
Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) estimated 1.3 million U.S. sales for the book in its first 48 hours, around 400,000 higher than for the first 48 hours of Potter V. Rival superstore chain Borders Group Inc. (BGP) reported a record 850,000 Potter sales worldwide in the first day, 100,000 greater than for the debut of "Order of the Phoenix."
Although the book only went on sale midnight Saturday, some have already decided to pass their copies on to others. Used editions, for as little as $15.94, were available through eBay, Amazon.com and Alibris.com, which has been offering $5, plus postage, for used copies.
Unlike most blockbusters, "Harry and the Half-Blood Prince" is also a hit with critics, getting raves from The New York Times, the Seattle Times, The Associated Press and others. Many found it Rowling's deepest, most accomplished work, with a tragic conclusion that left even reviewers in tears.
A dissenting opinion came from the San Francisco Chronicle, where David Kipen observed of the 600-plus page novel: "A major character dies by the end of the latest Harry Potter book; readers who bore easily may feel a bit done in themselves.
"It's not that 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' is dull, exactly. … No, the main problem is that J.K. Rowling has now written six of these bricks. Even if they were getting better, they're certainly not getting any fresher."
Potter seven is 'two years' away'
JK Rowling has told fans the last instalment of the Harry Potter books could be out in about two years' time.
The author said she planned to start writing it at the end of the year – no sooner as her daughter is still young.
But she did say she was doing some work on the seventh book at the moment, and repeated that the final chapter is already finished and locked away!
JK was talking at a press conference in Edinburgh where all the reporters were children aged between eight and 16.
After the press conference, fourteen-year-old competition winner Owen Jones, from Cardiff, then quizzed JK in the only main interview she will give during the Half-Blood Prince's release. The best-selling author told Owen she was dreading finishing the seven-part series, as writing Harry Potter had been such a big part of her life for so long.
"I am dreading it in some ways," she told him. "I do love writing the books and it is going to be a shock, a profound shock to me.
"Even though I have known it is coming for the past fifteen years, I have known that the series would end, I think it will still be a shock."
But she did have some good news for Potter fans who can't imagine waiting another two years to find out what happens to Harry and his friends. She said that, more than ever before, the end of the sixth book will leave big clues as to what's to come in book seven.
JK arrives at the castle
"I think I give very clear pointers as to what Harry will do next," she said. "There is plenty to guess at… at least one thing I think people will probably deduce, there is a mystery left at the end, but I think they might already know the answer if they think about it."
Did anyone else feel a wee bit….let down? I felt like something was missing.
So, unlike a lot of you, I have tons of free time on my hands and I have been reading nonstop and have finished reading the Half-Blood Prince. I'm going to wait a while to discuss my thoughts…..