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Harry Potter Reign Ends?

harry potterAfter 10-years at the top of various best-sellers lists, Harry Potter has finally been knocked off. While this story seems newsworthy in that it’s almost like the end of an era, I also think it’s interesting because of the way the Harry Potter phenomenon changed the way The New York Times did their best-sellers lists.

I’m a little late posting about this, I think, but I just heard about it on The New York Times Book Review podcast and also found it mentioned on PaperCuts, The New York Times books blog.

Anyway, the changes… In 2000 the adult best-sellers list was being completely dominated by Harry Potter. Authors, publishers, and readers were getting frustrated that they couldn’t get onto the list, so The New York Times responded by creating new lists. With a fourth book on the way, editors at The New York Times decided to create the children’s best-sellers list. An article about the 2000 decision noted,

The change is largely in response to the expected demand for the fourth in the Harry Potter series of children’s books, editors at the Book Review said.

”The time has come when we need to clear some room” on the list, said Charles McGrath, the editor of the Book Review, which appears weekly in the paper’s Sunday issue.

Editors said that the idea of adding a children’s list, in addition to the three hardcover lists for fiction, nonfiction, and ”advice, how-to and miscellaneous” and separate lists for paperbacks in those categories, had been under consideration for some time. The new list will mix all categories of children’s books together, fiction and nonfiction, but in the beginning will show only hardcover sales. Like the adult list, the children’s list will have 15 slots.

As it turned out, that change wasn’t enough to take down Harry Potter — the series started to take over the new children’s list. In 2004, The New York Times began the children’s series best-sellers list, which takes all of the books in a given series and counts them as one line item.

In the May 11 issue of the Book Review, Harry Potter doesn’t appear on any of these lists. In total, the Harry Potter series has sold more than 375 million copies and translated into 65 different languages. And, one of the editors on the podcast predicted she would be back on the best-sellers lists when the sixth Harry Potter movie comes out later this year.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • pseudonymblog May 14, 2008, 11:20 pm

    Don’t worry, Harry Potter may have been knocked off the list, but the series will continue to be a hit, for MANY generations to come.

  • Becca May 16, 2008, 2:28 am

    Dang! I didn’t realize they had to make all of those changes just for Harry Potter. That book has some serious staying power. Thanks for the links!

  • Kim May 18, 2008, 3:50 pm

    pesudonymblog: Yeah, I’m sure Harry Potter will be around for a long time, especially because of the way it can get younger, non-readers into reading something.

    Becca: I too was really surprised about all the changes it made to the Book Review — I didn’t know something as recognized as the New York Times Book Review would make changes like that.