Harry Potter Inc. Taking a Big Downturn?

In today’s news we find three pointers to the end of Harry Potter’s dominance of the book trade and cultural landscape: a Publisher’s Weekly report on sales of children’s books for fiscal year 2009, Time-Warner’s stock being downgraded in anticipation of the last Potter films from Warner Brothers, and scrape-the-barrel publishing tactics by Bloomsbury to milk the Hogwarts Saga of every dollar. One by one —

Publisher’s Weekly ‘2009 in Review’ for Childrens Books shows Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga dominating almost every category. To those who insist that Mrs. Meyer “is not a good writer,” I guess the millions of books she continues to sell are testimony to show how stupid her readership really is and how a story poorly told can (if marketed correctly?) resonate in the human heart. Oi.

Note that only the Deathly Hallows backlist paperback competed well with any of Mrs. Meyer’s works. All seven Potter novels continued to sell well, certainly, but at nothing like the rate they once did or as the Twilight books are. Yes, this is due to the absence of a Potter movie and to the presence of a Twilight movie and a DVD release — and, no doubt, this year’s Deathly Hallows, Part 1, will revitalize Harry’s book sales, but, nonetheless, the Potter grip of the best seller lists was broken in 2009.

If you think that is no big deal, you aren’t playing with real money. Those who do, folks who invest in companies associated with (as in “living symbiotically with”) Potter, Inc., are moving their money out of Potter-heavy companies. On Tax Day, the Associated Press ran a story “Time Warner Downgraded as ‘Harry Potter’ Nears End: Analyst cites weaker growth prospects amid end of series.”

An analyst downgraded shares of Time Warner Inc. on Wednesday, saying the factors that could boost growth at the media company are largely past it.

Morgan Stanley analyst Ben Swinburne lowered his rating to “Equal Weight” from “Overweight.” He said any return on the stock would be in line with its peers.

Moreover, prospects at the company’s Warner Bros. movie studio are not as clear once the Harry Potter slate of films ends in July 2011, the analyst said.

Bad sign? Think about the news from The Guardian (UK) that Bloomsbury is coming out with novelty book covers to attract repeat, collector, and new buyers to their business keystone: “Bloomsbury hopes new book covers will recapture the Harry Potter magic.” How bad is it? ” The article reports the “absence of Harry Potter release sees profits fall 35% last year” and,  you gotta love this, Bloomsbury “plans talks with Apple about iPad ebooks application.”

There are two movies left in the chute, the theme park is opening this summer, Ms. Rowling is hard at work on a new book (which will, no doubt, revive sales of all her books), and this is the shared text of the 21st Century, whatever the Forks Saga sales may be. Harry Potter is not disappearing. But his dominance of the publishing and movie and cultural landscapes obviously peaked in 2007 at never before reached levels and has been reduced in the years since to the simply “enormous” from “unprecedented” and “stratospheric.”

Your thoughts?

H/T to Beth for the PW link!


  1. if they will decide to put out Harry Potter for iPad, I will give in and purchase one… (how sad is that?)

    But how in the world do they think that Harry Potter is going to keep selling at old rates – everyone could have told you it would happen – if for no other reason than most of the new readers of HP today can easily get ahold of copies to borrow from any number of their friends! So you’re only really getting books bought by those who are new fans and want to have their own copy…

    as soon as the Twilight movies are over, their sales will start to dwindle down to normal numbers too I’d suspect…

  2. Harry Potter party favors says

    Well it has been a while since the last book, so of course it was naturally going to happen.

  3. I’m not surprised. I have multiple copies already in hardback, paperback, audio books, the 10th anniversary edition, some UK versions – but most people aren’t even that obsessed. And now that the books have been out for a while, it’s easier to check them out from the library or to find copies in thrift stores.

    What does surprise me is that Twilight is listed on the children’s book list? Huh?

  4. Rusty Shackleford says

    Well obviously?

    If Harry continued to dominate even three years after the last book, that would be un-precedented. Nobody will ever write another series as successful worldwide as Harry Potter.

    The series will never die, and the last two movies are going to light up the box office like none before them. Count on it.

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