Has JK Rowling created a lovable hero or out of control monster in her Harry Potter character? Amazon would probably suggest the former considering that it has just announced, with no surprises whatsoever, that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has become the 'largest single-product distribution in Amazon.com's history.' Even before the publication date, Amazon had taken 2.2 million pre-orders to eclipse the previous record of 1.5 million which was held by the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The 1.4 million pre-orders in the US alone made it the largest new-product release at Amazon ever. On the first day of sale, 1.3 million copies were actually delivered to the public and shipped to 160 countries across the world via its seven web sites. Not a bad slice of the total 20 million books that have been sold globally, 8.3 million of them in the US.
Sitting on the monster side of the fence are the websites that rely upon Google AdSense for income it would seem. According to a thread at WebmasterWorld many people are noticing a drop off in traffic from midnight Friday. One claims his traffic, and therefore his AdSense revenue, has dropped by 80% as people stay at home to read the book cover-to-cover rather than partake of their usual weekend web browsing habit. There are even suggestions that by looking at the downturn in traffic you can get an insight into visitor demographics. But this rather blithely assumes that only young folk read Harry Potter, and this would not seem to be borne out by real world experience. I am not even sure that Harry Potter is the reason for the downturn, or least not the only one. In the UK there is something nearing a National State of Emergency as a million people are without electricity and drinking water following the worse floods in living memory over the same weekend. When you factor in flooding in other regions such as Asia, heatwaves in Southern Europe, and families starting to go on vacation as schools break up for the summer, well it all eats into the Potter percentages. Still, it would be interesting to know if you have found an unusual drop in revenues and traffic over this last weekend compared to your usual historical figures.
Those on the receiving end of the numerous worms and viruses that have emerged to exploit the Potter popularity during the last few weeks might be teetering towards the monster side as well. Mind you, serves them right for opening Word document attachments claiming to reveal key plot lines and character death scenarios. Real fans would obviously want to wait and read the entire story, so perhaps the folk caught out by the re-appearance of the Hairy.A worm, for example, cannot complain too bitterly. After all, they do end up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley all having user accounts on their computers. I somehow doubt that the accompanying warning to 'repent from your evil ways lest ye shall burn in hell' has anything to do with the dangers of downloading copyright infringing publications though, and rather more to do with religious fanaticism.
The police in Bangalore, home of high tech in Southern India, have reported the seizure of thousands of pirated copies of the book valued at 4 million rupees ($100,000.) The chap who managed to get copies of the book out and into file-sharing circulation before the actual launch, by photographing each and every page of a copy, could be also be about to get his collar felt by the long arm of the law. According to the Times Online the Exif metadata forming a kind of digital DNA for each photo could be his or her downfall. Canon has already revealed the camera used to take the images was a Canon Rebel 350D that is three years old and was sold in North America. If the camera has been serviced, the Harry Potter hacker is doomed. If the owner has registered the camera for warranty purposes, he is equally likely to be in trouble. Not a great deal of trouble it would seem, as legal eagles reckon they would only be guilty of copyright infringement rather than more serious criminal charges as there was no commercial gain made from the publication of the photographed book pages. Even with damages assessed on potential lost sales, the publishers might have trouble convincing a court that they have suffered any great financial hardship given the record breaking sales all over the world that the book has enjoyed.
And finally, I have to mention the less than magic eBay effect which kicked into action as some online stores mistakenly shipped the book a day early. With hundreds of copies of Deathly Hallows up for grabs before the official midnight launch, for anything up to $250, some fans didn't have to wait for the world's tabloid newspapers to publish spoilers in the form of rushed reviews over the weekend to discover which of their favorite characters had been killed off as the most lucrative series of books in history comes to a close.