July 18, 2005
Harry Potter and the Balance Sheet of Irregularities
Posted by Dave Hoffman

I'm one of the millions that "pre-ordered" the latest Potter book on Amazon.  I enjoyed it as a unique work, and wouldn't cram it, as Michiko Kakutani does in her review, between Oz and the Lord of the Rings.  (Note to our Red State fans: beware Rowling's thinly disguised (and deeply British) Bush bashing.)  Gordon: when you finally get a few hours of alone time, you are in for a treat!

But the point of this post isn't the novel, it is the accounting.  News accounts this weekend gushed that Potter's sales (>$117M) beat the weekend box office draw of the top movie (appropriately: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($55M)).  This may be the first time a single book's sales have accomplished this feat, although the publishing (divisions) of the entertainment industry's 2004 net sales ($23.7 B) compared favorably with the movie (divisions) ($9.4 B).

But, as always, accounting is a bit of an art.  For example, does the Potter weekend sales figure account for the refund of $1.00 Amazon is sending me, after they dropped their price to compete with downmarket sales?  I imagine that the contract between Amazon and Scholastic covers this eventuality, with Scholastic getting a guaranteed price per book, and the two sharing the remainder.  Which means that Amazon ought to eat most of the refund. 

To be frank, many of the numbers announced here feel about as firm as magazine circulation numbers or the box office draw itself.  Probably not worth worrying about, but if you see J.K.R. hauled away by British regulators enforcing a muggle anti-puffing ordinance, remember, you read it here first.

Oh, and while we are talking about summer activities, you should go here and read James Lileks' latest bleat, in which he offers an observation that best summarizes the state of play:

"We’re at the point where summer seems permanent and strong, almost Roman in its confidence. For such nights ice and spirits were made."


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