Predictably there were fans queuing for hours outside all the stores still selling the book before the mad grab began at 7.01 a.m Malaysian time.
And there were some rather ugly scenes.
Borders at the Curve had a larger crush of people than anticipated. One disabled man reported yelling and threats, and had to be rescued from the pushing and shoving by bookshop staff when the shutters were lifted. Potter fans fans surged forward regardless, eager kids egged on by their (kiasu?) parents even before the shutters were fully lifted.
At Borders at Berjaya Times Square fans broke into a frenzy when they saw a staff member with a door key and almost broke down the door.
There was some discord too at Kinokuniya where thirteen Potter fans who streamed in as soon as the building opened at 5.15 a.m. found another ten people in the queue ahead of them at the bookshop. (So where did they hide all night, ah? In the toilet?) When the store opened, some 400 people surged forward and one girl was injured (but got a free copy of the book). (Eternal Wanderer gives an eye witness account.)
The hypermarkets, of course did a brisk trade but each branch had only limited stock to offer the public. (How could they have known about the pullout by the other bookstores?) Carrefour Mid Valley sold almost half its stock of the book in just 45 minutes and only enough copies to last until 10 a.m. Most of the other hypermarkets had sold out by the end of the day. But of course the book was used as a loss leader to tempt folk to do their grocery shopping at the same time.
Take a look at this Wiki page on Harry potter and the Deadly Hallows - but only if you don't mind, or can ignore the spoilers - to read about the worldwide price wars over this book, because in fact what happened here is symptomatic of a global threat to book retail.
Says the NST:
In Ipoh Tesco enjoyed roaring sales, thanks to walk-in customers who rewarded the hypermarket for the cheaper price by purchasing other goods.Many were not happy with the protest by the other bookshops who seen by many as the boo-hiss villains when they are the victims of (to put it kindly) opportunistic business practices ... but of course just try telling that to the kids.
As Popular Bookstores executive director Lim Lee Ngoh says:
What are books to a hypermarket? For bookstores, that’s all we have.Representatives from the four will be meeting sole distributor Penguin books next week to resolve the pricing dispute.
You can read more about loss leaders in publishing here. It's good to remember this:
Loss leaders are a fact of life, but don’t forget that your bookseller supports you all year round. If you don’t support them, you may find they are not there next time you need them.Especially as our bookshops are already under threat.
Madcap Machinist posted a link to this article in the Sunday Independent which reveals that the amount from each books sale going to the publisher is £10.74 a copy. That's RM75.37.
Of course other costs are incurred for our books - warehousing, shipping, transport, advertising. This means that by selling the book at RM 69.90 the hypermarkets are making a substantial loss on each copy they sell to undercut the booksellers. Fill in all the dots yourselves.
I disagree with Machinist though when he says the shops should have continued to sell the book. At some point a stand has to be made.
And although it sounds a real joke, the only way independent booksellers around the world can avoid making a loss on selling the book is to buy from the supermarkets/hypermarkets, which they sell on for the same price in their own stores just to make customers happy.
From an article by Manjit Kaur just added on the Star website:
The Malaysia Bookseller Association's 100-odd members nationwide will meet next week to decide their next course of action over the Harry Potter price war that has erupted here.The Malaysian news even made the International Herald Tribune.
"The worst case scenario would be to return the books to the publisher," said its president Cheah Thye Wee. ...
... They said they were protesting the "indiscriminate price discount," adding that it was not fair of distributor Penguin Books to "allow hypermarkets to sell such a popular book when they are not in the book business."
... Penguin Singapore and Malaysia managing director Eddy Teo said the hypermarkets would incur losses by selling the novel at a cheaper price, pointing out that their purchase price was actually higher.
He said there would be no replenishment on top of the opening order due to unavailability of stocks and the British publisher of the novel, Bloomsbury, had no plans for reprints now.
Cheah said his association was shocked and disappointed with the price under-cutting of the seventh and final book in British author J.K. Rowling's bestselling series.
Hypermarkets should be giving discounts on milk power, rice and other necessities that benefited a larger population of the country, and not use bestsellers to attract customers to their outlets, he said on Saturday.
He said those in the business had waited for two years for the book to be released, and it would have been understandable if the hypermarkets sold the book for RM69.90 a year later, but to do so on the day of its launch was "ridiculous."
He strongly supported the decision of the four major bookstore chains to not sell the book.
"We will stand by them," he added.
Kervin does a very good job of explaining the economics. Glad someone gets it!
(Photo scanned from NST shows the crush in Tesco Mutiara Damansara)