Printers feel the touch of magic

Around 120,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix arrived in New Zealand for the 11.01am release of the book here on Saturday June 21.

While none of the large national booksellers were giving figures on how many copies had disappeared off their shelves, it was clear that the book’s sales had been as impressive as everybody believed they would be.

Whitcoull’s national book manager Joan Mackenzie did not give sales figures, but said that they had exceeded the company’s expectations. The company took precautions before the book’s launch to ensure that stores had enough stock. As a consequence, there were no sell-outs on the first weekend.

Whitcoulls, New Zealand’s largest bookseller, was selling the book for $29.95, $20 less than the cover price of $49.95.

While talk about the demise of print and the rise of e-books has been prominent in recent years, it was hard-cover paper versions that were flying off the shelves and being photographed in the hands of young Kiwis in towns all over the country.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was, of course, the largest first printing of any book in history.

Despite a printing error which saw an estimated10,000 books sent out with a missing chapter, few error copies seem to have made it to our shores. New Zealand’s copies of the book were printed in Australia.

In Auckland, Prime Minister Helen Clark was among those participating in the Storyline Festival of New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Along with noted Kiwi author Margaret Mahy, Clark was part of a marathon storytelling session which went on over the weekend.

Mahy was followed by Clark in reading the first words of the new Potter book at the Auckland launch.

Pundits claiming that book printing is dead have been served a slice of humble pie, with JK Rowling’s fifth tale of the boy wizard Harry Potter proving a boon for printers and publishers worldwide.

In Australia, Griffin Press and McPhersons are celebrating their biggest-ever print jobs as Harry Potter fever sweeps the nation. Between them the two companies printed a whopping 750,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The first print run is by far the largest run for any book ever printed in Australia, and follows the worldwide trend, which saw author Rowling become $200million richer on June 21.

A week after the books went on sale a further print run of 150,000 was ordered by publisher Allen & Unwin, with a further similar sized run expected to be ordered a week after that. Further bonus for Griffin and McPhersons came with the very large pagination of the book, which was a War and Peace size 768 pages. For the first run some 800 tonnes of 70gsm Enso Creamy paper was used.

However, this is comparatively small potatoes when compared to global statistics. In the USA, the book is already into its third printing run, less than a week after its record-breaking launch. Scholastic Corp. will print 800,000 copies to appease the Potter-mad population, bringing the total production in the USA alone to 9.3million copies. In Harry’s homeland of Britain, the first day of sales saw 1,777,541 copies fly out the door. This compares to 372,775 copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, its predecessor and previous record holder.

Former US First lady and current New York senator Hillary Clinton is also showing that there is life in the high-volume book printing market yet, with her biography Living History surpassing the one million copy mark in the USA after just one week.

The global printing industry has been doing a lot of soul searching of late as digital print technologies improve, opening up the viable opportunity for printers to try their hand at printing books on-demand. Challenge has also been met with the rise of the internet, as online publishing has become the flavour of the 21st Century, with online publications complimenting, and sometimes even replacing, the printed word.

While reversing the traditional sales model of print-then-distribute will serve as the primary challenge, the opportunities are definitely there for the intrepid printer. A push towards an industry of sell-then-publish may find support in the fact that generally book sales have been down due to the aforementioned factors, but some balance must be achieved, as illustrated by the recent wave of Rowling’s wand.

Rowling won’t be short of presents this Christmas, as the world’s book printers thank her not only for the Harry Potter bonanza, but for making book reading fashionable again. The fact that another two Harry Potter titles are planned for the future means that publishers and printers have more gold on the horizon. However, with the painfully-long writing process that Rowling employed in writing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it would be foolish to pin the future of book printing on them. That said, the recent volumous print runs of both of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Living History pleads the case that perhaps there is more than enough room for both high-and low-volume/on-demand book printing markets in the industry.

Harry Humdingers

– Nearly 10,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix were incorrectly bound in Australia, with missing pages and incorrect sequencing of chapters.

– More than one in 28 Britons now own a copy of the new Harry Potter book.

– Harry Potter’s magic caused fluctuations in Wall Street, with US publisher Scholastic losing 4.78 per cent (US$1.48) value on its shares on the first day of trading since the book’s release. Online bookseller Barnes & saw its stock double prior to the launch, then shed 18 per cent of its worth on the same day. Analysts describe the event as profit-taking.’s shares rose US$.54.

– A Bangladeshi publishing house has obtained the rights to translate and publish both Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Living History. Bengali translations of previously published books are rare.

– Harry Potter mania has swept Slovakia, with all 400 English copies of the book having sold out of local bookshops. Another 800 copies are now on order. A Slovakian version is not due for release until February 2004.

– shipped more than one million copies on the first day of the book’s release, the largest distribution day of a single item in ecommerce history.

– JK Rowling has sued a New York newspaper for US$100million after publishing details of the book before its release date, after a reporter purchased a copy from a health food store which made the book available too early.

– A truckload of the Harry Potter book, 7600 in total, was stolen from a warehouse in Northern England a week before its publication date. The books have a street value of US$220,000

– A suburban Kansas City mail carrier has been suspended for accidentally delivering a copy of the new Harry Potter novel to a customer one day too soon. The mail centre successfully regained possession of the book, only to return it on the following day.

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