Harry Potter Breaks All Records
By now, no doubt, you've heard about Harry's astounding success.
If you have to ask "Harry who?" you've probably been living on Mars for the past two months.
Scholastic Books, New York, released children's book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on July 8 with an initial printing of 3.8 million copies -- the largest initial press run in history. Almost 3 million copies moved during its first weekend in circulation, including more than 1 million copies that were sold in advance.
Three days after the book's debut, Scholastic announced a second printing, increased from
2 million to 3 million copies, based on the first weekend's phenomenal sales. This brings the total to a whopping 6.8 million books.
Indeed, the publication of J.K. Rowling's latest bestseller created a media hoopla, with all the fanfare of a major Hollywood hit.
BookTech the Magazine asked how the publisher was able to produce a record-breaking volume of books in the short time after the title was announced in mid-June, and its public release in July. A spokesperson for Scholastic said the title had actually been finalized earlier, but was kept "top secret."
And a Blockbuster It Was
Scholastic used three printers and multiple binderies to accomplish the world's largest first printing. The production process itself may have resembled a movie script: Imagine millions of books rolling off the presses, then trucked off for binding under cover of darkness to protect the closely guarded secret of its title.
Commercial printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons, which printed 2 millions copies of the book at its Harrisonburg, Va., plant, enjoyed stronger-than-expected second-quarter profits, partly as a result of the enormous print project, according to news reports. The company reported net income of $56.3 million for the quarter, up 7 percent from a year earlier. And revenues rose 11 percent, from $1.25 billion to $1.39 billion.
Asked whether coordinating printing and binding in multiple locations presented challenges in consistency or quality control, Scholastic officials said they were "absolutely happy" with the quality of book production. Minor variations in the inking characteristics of different presses, for example, did not create problems in delivering a uniformly high-quality product to consumers, they noted.
"Of course, 3.8 million copies demanded a crisp printing timeline and one we knew could be accomplished," they continued.
While exact sales figures and production costs are not publicly available, it seems likely that advance sales in excess of 1 million copies could easily have generated enough revenue to cover the cost of the first printing, a rare and welcome situation for any publisher.
There are currently 21 million copies of the first three Harry Potter books in print, including three hardcover novels and the paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
This story has a happy ending, too. Like any major Hollywood hit, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will be followed by sequels. And the paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was scheduled for release in August with an initial printing of 3.2 million copies.
What does all of this mean? As Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen wrote in her article on Harry's success, "Reports of the death of the book have been greatly exaggerated. ... Indeed, in 50 years, today's children won't remember who survived 'Survivor,' but they will remember Harry."