Chain booksellers in the UK have welcomed yesterday’s news that Little, Brown UK will publish the script of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter stage play in book form, although independents are less sure of how well the book will sell.
Both Waterstones and Foyles said they were excited about the script book release of Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II on 31st July. The play, by Jack Thorne, continues the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione 19 years after the end of the seventh novel.
James Daunt, m.d. of Waterstones, did not reveal any details about how his company will mark the occasion, but said the retailer's plans will put previous Harry Potter launches “into the shade”. He added: “There are no sweeter three words to the ears of a bookseller than 'the eighth story'.”
Simon Heafield, head of marketing and brand development at Foyles, said any book set in the Harry Potter Universe is destined to be “one of the big publishing events of the year”.
“Judging by the recent success of our Harry Potter Book Night events across Foyles branches, Pottermania is still alive and well; we're massively excited at the news and are already putting our heads together on the question of how to mark the occasion in style,” he said.
However, independent booksellers were more cautious, saying they wanted to wait and gauge customer excitement before deciding how to celebrate the launch of the book.
Marie Moser of the Edinburgh Bookshop said her customers are over the “bump” of enthusiasm for Harry Potter. “The books always sell and the phenomenon has not run its course but the level of excitement that we saw a few years ago has passed.”
Nic Bottomley, founder of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, said the news is exciting for “hard-core” Harry Potter fans.
“If this was a new novel it would be the book of the year,” he said. “All things being equal, a play is not as easy a sell as a novel. Scripts are usually only about a 100 pages long and charging £20 for 100 pages could be a hard sell. However, there are lots of fans out there who want to find out more about Harry Potter.”
He said he was unsure of hosting a midnight opening. “We didn’t do a midnight opening for the new Harper Lee book. We found that our customers were happy to wait a day.”
Peter Donaldson, who owns Red Lion Books in Colchester, said his customers will be interested in the book because it develops the Harry Potter storyline but their reaction “won’t be like in 2007”.
Anna Dreda, owner of Wenlock Books in Shropshire, said she’s not sure she’s interested in even stocking the books at all. “Although the Harry Potter phenomenon was amazing, sales of the paperbacks haven’t held up for us. They tick over slowly and always have them in stock but they’re not raging bestsellers for us.”
A synopsis of the play, posted on Pottermore last October, said: "It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.”
Yesterday, David Shelley, c.e.o of Little, Brown Book Group, said: “We are so thrilled to be publishing the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. J.K. Rowling and her team have received a huge number of appeals from fans who can't be in London to see the play and who would like to read the play in book format – and so we are absolutely delighted to be able to make it available for them.”
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