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Publishing revenues post-Harry Potter vanish September 26, 2008

Harry Potter fans are undoubtedly feeling a void since for the first time in years, there’s no new Harry installment to look forward to.

Meanwhile, American publisher Scholastic Corp. is apparently feeling the void in a perhaps less emotional but no less painful way.

According to a Forbes report yesterday, the children’s book publisher reported a loss of $49.1 million, or $1.30 per share, compared with a loss of $2.8 million, or 7 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

“Scholastic Corp. said Thursday its fiscal first-quarter loss widened compared with a year-ago period that benefited from a new Harry Potter book,” writes Associated Press writer Michelle Chapman.

The final book in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7), reportedly generated $240 million in revenue that quarter.

Chapman writes that Scholastic President and Chief Executive Richard Robinson promises there’s fiscal life after Harry, citing new book franchises “The 39 Clues”, starting with The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1), and new Young Adult title The Hunger Games as performing well.

Fortunately, Hollywood is actually helping out us clingers-on with at least some new movie versions to anticipate, so maybe it’s not so bad they decided to postpone Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until next summer.

And J.K. Rowling can’t seem to quite let go either, fortunately, with her spin-off The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition.

Those whose little fans can’t say goodbye to Harry even after reading the entire series several times over also shouldn’t forget ancillary tomes like the Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set: From the Library of Hogwarts: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Quidditch Through The Ages. This collection, which at least gives more dimension to the world of Harry and friends, was released some years back but may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the new series installments that were coming out.

Meanwhile, Scholastic may never equal much less top the magical fiscal benefits Harry brought, but I hope they’re at least appreciative of the amazing coup of having been his creator’s stateside publisher.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

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Bratz: Runway to Highway September 23, 2008

I was looking for someone to high-five when I read the New York Times report that children’s publisher Scholastic Inc. has axed the sexed-up Bratz book rip-off series from their book clubs and fairs.

Well, nobody else is home so I’m high-fiving via blog. This rare “No” to the book merchandising of junky TV shows and products is a major step (although I don’t really understand why Scholastic allowed the trashy Bratz to move in in the first place, vamping about in titles such as “Catwalk Cuties”).

Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood claims credit for cutting the Bratz chapter books from the fliers that go home in students’ bookbags, as well as other spinoff products, via an aggressive e-mail campaign. Their beef is as much with the gimmick factor as the inappropriateness of the Bratz dolls, as is mine.

Unfortunately, Scholastic reports their decision to yank the series was based as much on dwindling sales as parent protests.

I’ve always felt Scholastic selections erred severely on the junky side, while sprinkling in some high-quality choices here and there, like the Harry Potter series. One stroll through a school Scholastic book fair and you tend to see as many, if not more, toys, cheapo plastic items and “imitation book products” on display as bona fide good books.

In her article, Times writer Motoko Rich quotes teachers who actually argue that book tie-ins to trendy shows like “Hannah Montana” and movies might be “the only books some children would read.”

Why? Why would spin-off drivel be the only thing a child would read? I’ll gladly field arguments to the contrary, but my feeling is that somebody just isn’t trying hard enough — if at all — to find such kids something good to read.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

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