Sravanthi Challapalli

Chennai, July 16

WHILE one Muggle, at least 30 years old, camped outside the bookstore in a Bangalore mall, another in her 20s went to the extent of hiring a taxi to reach a Chennai bookstore at 4.30 a.m.

A much younger compatriot staked out another bookstore as long as he could and then was at its doors by 3 a.m. to become its first customer. Thus, did the Muggle world in India wake up to the magic of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

(A Muggle is a term from the Harry Potter series which refers to a human with no magical abilities who doesn't belong to a wizarding family.)

According to Mr Thomas Abraham, President, Penguin Books India, sales touched one lakh copies countrywide by 6 p. m., Mumbai consuming 20,000. "This is the first time people stood in a queue and didn't complain," said a spokesperson for Chennai-based retailer Landmark. There were more than 200 people at its two Chennai stores between 6.30 and 7.30 a.m. waiting to grab their copy, a wait that was sweetened by the coffee and cookies that were on offer.

People forgot it was an early hour; excited and impatient readers started reading the book right there; there were squeals of delight as the book's treats unfolded; fathers hugged daughters who smiled and laughed and fell on their prized buy with joy. Shoppers also got a commemorative range of products, which included a special carry bag, sharer bookmarks and a copy of an interview by the author J.K. Rowling. Copies might run out in the next five or six days and readers will have to somehow contain themselves till the second consignment hits the shelves in the first week of August.

Odyssey, another Chennai-based retailer, has ordered 6,000 copies and is seeing them fly off the shelves. It estimates that they should empty out in a week but is trying to ensure that customers don't go without a copy. "Monday will tell us what the trend is like, and if we book copies as we get orders, nobody will go away disappointed," says Parthasarathy, Assistant Manager (Marketing).

For those who pre-ordered, Odyssey offered a discount on the book, a collectible cube and a contest, of which the 23-year-old winner is claiming her prize of a trip to London and the sights and sounds of the Potter movies. Launch day saw the bookstore offering a 10 per cent discount and 15 per cent off on the previous books.

Penguin Books India, which represents the book's publisher Bloomsbury, has ordered 1.4 lakh copies as the initial instalment.

Why was there such hype around this book? "The readership is stronger, the movies mimic the book's success, it's truly a family book; of course, there's substantial peer pressure it's a great marketing success aided by a great product," says Hemu Subramaniam, Partner, Landmark.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 17, 2005)
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