Tuesday, July 17, 2007

High Priced Potter

Children in England, the home of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter himself, may be hard-pressed to obtain a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's always the children who suffer when the adults are at odds.

In America, the book will be easy to find on Wal-Mart's shelves, or at least it will be easy to find as long as copies are available. With all the excitement over this last installment in the Harry Potter series, the book will not be on the shelves for long. Travel to England, where Wal-Mart operates the Asda chain, and there may not be a single copy of Ms. Rowling's book to be had.

Wal-Mart has its own way of operating, one that involves squeezing its vendors to extract every ounce of profit. Their Asda unit is now putting the clamps on Bloomsbury, the publisher of the Harry Potter novel, and the end result is a tiff that threatens to keep the book out of Asda's bargain priced stock.

Asda has accused Bloomsbury of profiteering, because the publisher has set the price of the book at EU26.50. Profiteering or not, but British publishers have a remarkable tendency to set the price of hardcover books at astronomical levels, and that may in part explain the financial difficulties that they experience. At any rate, Asda has been screaming loud and long about the suggested retail price, which takes advantage of the demand for the new book and a parent's willingness to pay anything for something the wee little ones want so very much.

Bloomsbury has countered, stating that Asda has unpaid bills in the ledger and the publisher isn't going to ship them more stock. Hence, 500,00 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that would have shipped will not be sent, and this only four days before the official lay-down.

People will shop at Asda whether or not the Harry Potter book is available, but will Bloomsbury manage to sell those 500,000 copies without Asda's shelf space? Or will British fans try to purchase the book on-line via Amazon.com? Considering the current rate of exchange, paying $17.99 is far cheaper than EU26.50. Is it any wonder that sales are declining for British hardcover books?

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