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Retailers miffed about Potter

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2003

NEW YORK -- The U.S. publisher of the ''Harry Potter'' series has revised a controversial program that sells books directly to students. Retailers had complained they were losing business.

Over the past few weeks, Scholastic Children's Books has been taking orders for J.K. Rowling's latest novel, ''Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,'' at school fairs around the country. The new book comes out June 21.

In exchange for a book certificate to be redeemed on the date of publication, students pay the full list price, $29.99 -- far more than the cost at many stores -- but they also receive a free ''Harry Potter'' baseball hat. A portion of the proceeds goes to the schools.

Scholastic has been selling books -- including the earlier Potter works -- at fairs for years. But this is the first time a Potter book has been pre-sold -- offered before publication.

Although the publisher said only a small percentage of Potter books would be sold this way, retailers have been concerned that they would miss out on the year's most anticipated release.

The CEO of the American Booksellers Association, Avin Domnitz, two weeks ago accused Scholastic of ''undermining all of the effort being put forth by booksellers nationwide.''

In response, Scholastic ann-ounced Wednesday that customers at school fairs can pick up their books at a ''participating retailer,'' instead of a Scholastic warehouse, which had been the procedure. Stores will receive a $20 credit for each certificate and their store name, address and phone number will be posted on the Scholastic Web site.

Booksellers praised the switch.

''We're grateful and delighted that Scholastic changed their book fair policy,'' Dale Spector, co-owner of the Yellow Book Road in La Mesa, Calif., said.

in a statement released Wednesday by the booksellers association.

''We'd prefer it hadn't been sold through book fairs at all, because it will lead to confusion. But it's certainly better than it was. Given the alternative, it is a reasonable compromise.''

A spokeswoman for Scholastic, Judy Corman, said, ''If they're happy, we're happy.''

The four previous Harry Potter novels have worldwide sales of more than 190 million and many readers already have ordered copies of the new book through retailers.

Within hours of the announcement in January that ''Order of the Phoenix'' was coming out, the book topped the best seller lists of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com and remained in those spots as of Wednesday. Independent stores have also reported strong advance sales.

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On the Net:

Scholastic Children's Books, http://www.scholastic.com

American Booksellers Association, http://www.bookweb.org



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