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Will Harry Potter redesign revive flagging book sales?

March 31, 2010

The new U.K. cover

Over in jolly olde England things are not so jolly for Bloomsbury, the U.K. publisher of the Harry Potter books. It seems that J.K. Rowling, unlike Stephenie Meyer, is producing no surprise novellas to satisfy fans or rescue gasping booksellers. Instead, Bloomsbury is reissuing the seven novels with new covers.

If that seems a desperate bit of business, consider that Bloomsbury’s profits, in the absence of a new Potter book, were down 35 percent last year, reports the Guardian. Rowling wrapped up the seven-volume series, possibly the most popular literary project in history, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007).

But the gambit makes sense when you consider all the new Young Adult readers who weren’t around for the first bout of Pottermania. Nigel Newton (don’t you love the British?!), Bloomsbury CEO, tells the London Telegraph that a new crop of 700,000 kids hits the Harry Potter demographic each year.

No word yet on whether Scholastic, Rowling’s American publisher will follow suit, but don’t be surprised if it does. By the way, the U.K. and American covers were always different — as indeed were the texts, with many Britishisms softened for tender American ears, beginning with the title of the very first book.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for Americans, apparently deemed too dim to know what the “philosopher’s stone” is. This still gets my knickers in a knot.

The original U.K. cover.

Ahem. Back to the news at hand. A site called Snitchseeker.com has images it claims are the new Potter covers, and they look quite sophisticated, dignified and suggestive of the YA fantasy adventure inside, very different from the more whimsical and direct original U.K. covers.

Will they appeal to newly minted 10-12 year olds? Maybe. But I’ll bet they sell a fair number to collectors and existing fans who can’t abide the knowledge there’s some new Potter thing they don’t yet possess.

In other Potter news: Universal Orlando released a video this week, reports USA Today, touting its new Potter ride, due to open June 18. The video features Daniel Radcliffe, the movie Harry, who says, “The ride is essentially a condensed form of the chaos of Harry’s life.” Yay. Right?

Here’s another fawning story about the Universal ride (“A ‘Game Changer’ Creators Say!”) from MTV News.

Umm…lessee…Harry Potter, Harry Potter — Ah! Here it is: While Scholastic reveals no plans for new book covers, it has unveiled a newly designed Potter website. Consisting primarily of quizzes and games, it underwhelms me, but then I am a Muggle. And somewhat outside the target demographic.

And I know this first came out last June, before the release of the most recent movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but I came across it researching this blog and it’s too sweet to ignore: Emma Watson, the movie ‘Hermione,’ says she may give up acting after the final Potter movie debuts in 2011.

Is it to much to hope she means it? If so, could she pleasepleaseplease talk to Kristen Stewart about a similar promise at the end of the ‘Twilight’ movies?

Okay, okay, I’m just being mean now — bygones! Meanwhile, please write back to tell me how rude I am, and whether you like the new Potter jackets or not. Or maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “Harry who?”

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2010 12:39 pm

    Nigel Newton, aka “The Big Fig”

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    March 31, 2010 12:46 pm

    Don’t you just totally have to love the Brits without reservation? Well, no. But still, I’ve never met an American named ‘Nigel,’ have you? Let alone ‘Nigel Newton.’ I think we should open a Department of Funny Names. The first 150 would no doubt be Brits. But I must say, there’s a certain dignity to this kind of nombre, is there not?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 31, 2010 12:49 pm

      And yes, to all and sundry, I am aware of the irony in someone named “Chauncey Mabe” making fun of other people’s names. But it’s kind of like how Jews can tell Jew jokes and lawyers can tell lawyer jokes and black people can use the “N” word. I can make fun of funny names by dint of having one myself. Besides, I’m from the South, the hotbed of funny names in America. Gives me the right.

  3. Connie permalink
    March 31, 2010 12:49 pm

    Rowling has her nerve. Doesn’t she realize she accounts for 90 percent of the British publishing industry? Get to work, missy!

    For the record – I don’t think Americans are named “Gervase” (as a first name, not as in Ricky Gervais), either.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 31, 2010 12:55 pm

      Possibly the all-time funny-name champeen is that Welsh actor Geraint Wyn Davies, much loved by trash TV aficianados for stellar work in such shows as Forever Knight (he was a vampire police detective), Robocop: Prime Directives, Cube 2: Hypercube, Alien Tracker — you get the idea. Geraint! Priceless.

  4. Tommy Smart permalink
    March 31, 2010 1:42 pm

    The book cover redesigns by Melinsky are neat. Minimalist in a big way. I may read a Potter book just yet. Shame, all the links on this subject point that these new covers will only be on paperbacks.

    I also read Melinsky has recently designed covers for Penguins Books for their Penguin Shakespeare collection. I will be posting The Rowling, Shakespeare, Melinsky Connection on authorship conspiracy blogs around the net.

  5. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    March 31, 2010 4:54 pm

    I love book design. When it’s done well, it’s an art and a craft. Unfortunately, it’s going to go the way of album art, at least it will if most people switch to digital reading devices. Here’s link to a story in today’s New York Times that I find very sad:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/books/31covers.html?ref=books

    • Tommy Smart permalink
      April 1, 2010 4:28 pm

      I hadn’t thought about this effect e-books and iPoods and Kindles would have. I always thought that as technology progressed the covers would become moving pictures (you know small, thin LCDs or something) but that the actual book would remain.

      I like book cover design art, yet you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover. If I had I never would have picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (I mean, 80′ much?) and would have missed out on quite an enjoyable story.

  6. Candice permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:23 pm

    I love the new covers. But are you sure about Americans being too “dim” for philosopher v. sorcerer? Doesn’t make since to me. That’s My Philosophy.

    Funniest southern last name ever: Horney. And their daughter almost married a man whose last name is Butt. Hence, she would have been Mrs. Horney-Butt. You can’t beat that with a baseball bat for real life humor. Not even those understated Brits.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 31, 2010 7:54 pm

      I think Americans are plenty smart enough to deal with a title like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’d be even more resentful if the books weren’t so much fun. Southern names: Best in the world, just like the biscuits.

  7. John Karwacki permalink
    March 31, 2010 8:40 pm

    My lovely daughter, Faith Deal Karwacki (speaking of funny names), turned me on to Potter back in her adolescence. I am forever grateful, not only for the books, but for the connections and conversations our little family has shared due to the content of Rowling’s stories. We have been able to discuss everything from friendship to betrayal to love, lust, death and beyond all couched in terms of these characters and sprouting from their exploits. Thanks J.K. and thanks Faith. I look forward to seeing the new covers.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 31, 2010 11:49 pm

      That’s what a good book does, and it’s lovely to see it.

      Don’t you love the way, in the end, the whole thing turns out to be a Christian allegory — after all the attacks and criticisms from Fundamentalists?

  8. March 31, 2010 10:34 pm

    The really interesting thing about the Harry Potter fiasco is how successfully newspaper editors, reporters and journalists everywhere have been bound and gagged by Rowling’s legal gestapo even though most of them know damn well the whole thing is a rip-off from start to finish.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 31, 2010 11:52 pm

      A rip-off of what? Surely you jest. A seven-volume saga, running to thousands of pages, wonderfully sustained and imagined — and it’s a rip-off? I guess you’d say The Lord of the Rings is a rip-off of the Volsunga Saga…Please provide more information, or be subject to relentless mockery for all time.

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