Highway Robbery

I got a kick out of seeing all those people lining up for numbers to purchase the latest installment in the Harry Potter series this past Saturday. I can't even imagine how it must feel to sell so many books (and I think it's safe to say I won't ever find out.) This series of novels has become a real phenomenon, bigger than anything I can remember in the literary world. The publisher knew they had a hit on their hands well before the book hit the stores.

I was shocked to learn that the cover price of the book was a staggering $34.99. Now, I know it's a thick book, but $34.99??? That's practically larcenous. No wonder this book broke all sales records.

I'm not a reader of any of these novels and can't speak for how much earlier books cost. But the publisher knew from the jump that they were going to make millions off of this book. Did they really have to charge so much? What's wrong with $27.50, or even $29.99?

This practice reminds me of record companies who would have their most popular singers and/or groups record two new songs - excellent material - and cut an album, filling in the remainder with old hits. The new songs would not be available on singles; you had to buy the album if you wanted them. Never mind if you already owned 3/4 of the songs from previous issues. It was easy money for the record company. I steadfastly refused to buy any of these, and no one loved Before I Let Go by Frankie Beverly and Maze more than me.

I'm not finding any fault with J.K. Rowling. I know enough to know that authors have little say in these matters, like when a paperback author suddenly catches on and they start issuing books in hardcover, much to the dismay of their loyal readers who can't afford to pay $24 for a book (some publishers who tried this got an unpleasant surprise - a drop in profits, and they subsequently returned the writers to paperback.) From what I understand, Ms. Rowling was on public assistance at one point. I'd like to think she sympathizes with the working class.

With $8 million in sales, I guess the publisher of Harry Potter doesn't have to worry about their profit margin. I think I read that this either might be or is the final book in the series. But if there is a next one, I'll go on record and predict that it'll retail for $39.99.


PatriciaW said...

No more HP books. This was the last. And I think the longest, at 750+ pages.

Despite the hefty price, I wonder how much they're really making. The big three (Amazon, B&N, and Wal-mart) together reported selling in excess of 6 million copies on the first day. Many were pre-purchased. And none of them are selling it for more than $18 bucks.

I waltzed into Wal-mart on Saturday, no reservation or pre-purchase, and picked one up for $17.87. Had I had to pay $35 bucks, I probably would have waited for the paperback, as I did with the first six books.

Donna D said...

My friend said the book was $39.99, but she got it from Borders for $20.99. They list priced the book so high, but they knew that no one was going to pay that price, especially since you could get it so cheap at Amazon or Borders.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bettye,
Is anyone really paying $34.99? I've seen the book in several places-- including Costco and Kroger for 40 percent off. Maybe the publisher factored in the auto-discount when they came up with that outrageous price.

bettye griffin said...

Thanks, Pat and Donna, for pointing out that a whole lot of places are selling the book for less. I was so astounded at the very thought of forking over $35 for a book that I forgot about discount sellers.

I think Nonnie (that sounds more personal than Anonymous, don'cha think?) has a point when she (presumably) said that the discount might have been factored in when they set the price.