Harry and the Strange Logic of Book Discounters

The tangled web of Harry Potter, author J.K. Rowling, Harry's British & US publishers, on-line bookstores (Amazon), bookstore chains (Barnes & Noble, Borders), non-bookstore chains (Wal-Mart, Costco), independent bookstores and all those Harry Potter fans/readers is examined in Saturday's New York Times.


There is a final irony here. It turns out that there are retailers who will make money on ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.'' They're the independent booksellers, the same group that originally suffered the brunt of Leonard Riggio's (Barnes and Nobles) discounting. Since then, though, independents have learned not to compete on price, but to give customers great service and other benefits. So how much did they charge for the most heavily discounted book of all time? Try $34.99.

Meaning that tiny Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., which has sold fewer than 2,000 copies of ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'' will make more money on it than might Amazon. Did I mention that the book business is a funny business?

Although you're correct in stating that Books & Books, selling 2,000 copies of Harry might make more profit per book on that particular title than the chains, you have to consider the entirety of their business model. Two thousand books is probably a fraction of 1 percent of the copies sold by Amazon, B&N etc., and they stock many, many more titles than your average indie bookstore because they have a huge customer base. The difference is -volume-, and chances are that your average independent bookstore owner (if they're lucky) is probably just making ends meet and not turning a gargantuan profit like Amazon.com.