The Publishing News magazine this week had an article about the overall economic growth of the book market in 2007.  Now, I make no claims to fully understand the economic statistics, but a couple of things really stood out:

‘Volume growth came in particular from hardback fiction (+19%) … The growth in hardback fiction came mainly from the adult edition of Harry Potter – excluding that title, the sector grew 4% by volume in 2006′

‘The value of children’s book purchases increased by 11%.  HP7 drove the increase in the children’s book market.  Excluding Harry Potter, spending on children’s titles was down 4%, and volume purchases flat.’

If I’m interpreting this correctly, then I think it is incredible that a single title (or a single series, rather, as it doesn’t specify HP7 alone) could account for 15% of volume sales in adult hardback fiction.  It just shows how powerful the Harry Potter phenomenon has been, and that is not necessarily a bad thing – I love the series as much as the next person.  But I also think that it is a shame that once you have removed Harry Potter, spending on children’s books was down – there has been so much hype about Harry Potter getting children to read who hadn’t been interested in reading before, but if that interest does not spread into other authors, then it is a limited success.  There are so many fantastic children’s authors out there, many of whom are in some ways superior to J. K. Rowling but whose books would probably appeal to a similar audience (I’m thinking of Diana Wynne Jones, The Edge Chronicles series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddel, and Tamora Pierce, to name just a few of my favourites) who deserve a larger share of the market (although admittedly, those I’ve named are all pretty successful in their own right).  And in general, it is so important to get children reading proper books, rather than just endless Mary-Kate and Ashley style spin-offs which take very little time to read and are probably never re-read.

So while I think the Harry Potter phenomenon is a fantastic thing in many ways, and while the statistics above demonstrate well the continuing power of books, lets hope that the children who were so enchanted by Harry continue to be inspired by other authors now that the last book is finished.

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