Potter Profits

The excitement is building toward the release of the latest Harry Potter book. It’s not particularly exciting for me, because I’ve not read any of the books. I was going to pick up the first one a while back, but just had too many other things to read. But nonetheless, the world is abuzz with Potter fever.

One place you may not find J. K. Rowling’s latest blockbuster is Asda.  Asda intended to sell the book for $8.97 when the cover price is £17.99 (yes, that a bit more than $36 these days).  Potter publisher Bloomsbury didn’t like that. But what they really didn’t like was when Asda accused them of “blatant profiteering”. The giant retailer also accused the publisher of “attempting to hold children to ransom” because the cover price is twice the average child’s pocket money. Bloomsbury said the comments were “potentially libelous”. I’m not sure how they could be potentially anything after they have been printed, but I suppose that’s for Bloomsbury’s solicitors to work out.

Bloomsbury is says it not withholding the book because of Asda’s comments, but because Asda owes them money, though they wouldn’t say how much. Asda was much more forthcoming, saying they owed Bloomsbury £38,000 while at the same time Bloomsbury owes them £122,000.

It is a testimony to the popularity of the series that the publisher can afford to cut out the second largest retailer in the UK and an initial order for 500,000 copies of the book. Asda is convinced it is going to have the title in stock by paying their outstanding balance today.

I have a hard time seeing Asda/Wal-mart as having the high moral ground when it comes to complaining about profiteering, just because they are making a popular book a loss-leader. And does every child have a right to Harry Potter at a reasonable price? It’s not exactly food, clothing, or shelter. Also, since the release date of the new book has been known for ages, children have had time to save up their pocket money. Is there a reason Bloomsbury shouldn’t maximise their profits?

Historical History

As we left the local library and museum today, we stopped at the new Oxfam bookshop. Until recently, Oxfam had a few used books for sale in their main shop. The selected is now expanded, but still quite limited.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time passing up a used bookstore, especially if I haven’t visited it before. I saw several things that interested me. One I couldn’t pass up. For £3.99 I picked up a copy of The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is 632 pages, in almost perfect condition and was published in 1885. It’s not a reprint. It came off the press when William Gladstone was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria still had 16 years left on the throne.

I don’t know when I shall read it cover-to-cover, but it is nonetheless a jewel on the bookshelf and no doubt a useful Church history resource.

Summer Saturday

It was starting to look a lot like there would be no summer in Britain this year. The last time I was out on a bright and sunny Saturday, I was watching parachutists jump onto the fields outside Sainte-Mère-Église at the beginning of June.

I enjoy going to the city centre on sunny summer Saturdays. We used to always eat sandwiches out in front of Marks and Spencer until Subway arrived and then that became a tradition for awhile. Today we ate at Subway again.

In WH Smith I found the sequel to the book I’m reading. I almost bought it since I haven’t been able to find it at Tesco, but I decided to look on Amazon. I can get the hardcover for £5.15 (including postage) or the paperback for £5.14. That’s nearly £2 cheaper than in the store and I don’t have to go back into town to get it.

After we got back from visiting friends in a nearby village, and the kids had their dinner, bath, and were off to bed, I sat outside in the waning sunlight to read more of my book. I looked up from time to time to see over the river to the cathedral, where the scaffolding has finally been removed. The newly cleaned spires on the four corners of the tower glowed in the evening light. Groups of teenagers sat on the playing fields and a dad was kicking the ball around with a couple of boys who would be too old for that sort of thing too soon.

There are worse places in the world.

I tried not to look at the chain linked fencing that cuts across the ancient meadow, blocking off a large portion occupied on the weekdays by workmen as they prepare to destroy the beauty with unnecessary flood defences. But Asda gave them money build concrete walls and huge earthen mounds to push the water downstream into the houses that have never flooded before and that’s what they are going to do. This is probably the last summer I’ll have the view that came with my mortgage.

Summer or not, being Britain after sunset, the chill in the air got me before the light faded. I found my bookmark and put Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 on hold. Now that I’ve made a cheesecake (from a box, of course) and I’m waiting for that to set, I’ll get back to the story.

I’ll pick up from the line: “I’ll stay sober, sir, I promise,” for he had a whore to bury and general to see.

One day I’ll write stuff like that.

Reading and Writing

Apparently if you want to be a good fiction writer, you need to read fiction. I’m trying to read more and particularly American Civil War fiction, since I’m writing a story from that conflict.

I started with Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. In the airport waiting for the return flight from Texas I picked up Rebel : The Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles: Book One by Bernard Cornwell. It cost $15.00. I am just over half-way through it and I started to wonder how much I would have to pay to get the second book in the series.

I was in Tesco the other night and I saw the third book of the series on the shelf. I dug through to try to find the second book. I couldn’t find it, so I asked at the service desk. They didn’t have individual titles in the stock database, but the customer service lady pulled out a drawer under the books there it was. In a small reversal of rip-off Britain it was £4. It’s mass market, so the print is smaller than the one I bought in Houston, but that’s why I have reading glasses. And I already know Tesco carries the third book.

Cornwell’s book is a lighter read than Hicks, but then Hicks took seven years to write his, and Cornwell has written 46 books in 25 years (Rebel was his 21st book in 1993). I really want mine to be more like Hicks’, with the main characters based of historical individuals and exploring the characters more deeply.

It’s just a matter having the time and opportunity to do the research.