Potter casts blockbuster spell on fair with big sales
Amy Nip, Natalie Ornell and Wang Kanglei
The Harry Potter series may have ended, but the boy wizard has come to the rescue of English-language book publishers in Hong Kong who had been bemoaning the lack of international blockbusters this year.
Sales of the complete set of Potter books have picked up since the final movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, hit Hong Kong screens.
By yesterday, one Hong Kong Book Fair exhibitor, Publishers Marketing, had sold about 70 of the sets at HK$559 each. Another, Bookazine, had already sold out.
Shops in English Avenue, the fair's English-language section, which is 50 per cent bigger than last year, have more variety on offer and report more visitors but have no big sellers like last year's Twilight and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
'The number [of Potter sets sold] is still far behind what we made from Twilight. Five hundred sets were sold in a week,' Franki Ng of Publishers Marketing said.
In the face of fierce competition, some books are being sold at discounts of up to 50 per cent.
Bookazine is selling old editions of Lonely Planet guidebooks for HK$10, while books by Anne Rice and Colin Powell cost HK$29, and children's books are offered at half their original prices.
Staff member Shonee Mirchandani said prices overall were a little higher than last year, as costs surged 15 per cent. Books that sold for HK$25 each last year now cost HK$29.
Metrobooks' display is 50 per cent bigger than last year, assistant store manager Edmund Au Wai-kin said. Offering a 30 per cent discount on all books, the chain enjoyed double-digit growth in sales on the first day, Wednesday, he said. Fiction and children books are its focus this year.
Those interested in specialised topics may find surprises at the stall of Aromix Books, the distributor of eight top US universities, including Harvard and MIT, which offers controversial books such as On Bullshit, written by a Princeton professor.
Several authors regaled fans with vivid accounts of their experiences in talks at the fair yesterday.
Ridley Pearson, a writer of thrillers for adults and Peter Pan prequels for children, said: 'I came out of college and tried to be a rock musician. Then I got jobs for trade magazines. I wrote 80 articles on how to be a better bank teller. For my first novel, I was paid enough to buy a microwave.'
The US writer was in a band with famous writers, including Stephen King and Amy Tan, who performed oldies music 'badly' for charity.
British historical novelist Justin Hill, who teaches writing at City University, spoke of how he used Google maps to help him write about Anglo-Saxons and ancient battles.
Tracing the satellite images, he got an idea whether the characters should be going uphill or down, he said.
British poet Wendy Cope read seriously to titters from the audience: 'Two Cures for Love. First. Don't see him. Don't phone or write a letter. Second. The easy way: get to know him better.'