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Harry who?
July 5, 2007 9:07 PM   Subscribe

So amazon.com has 1.06 million pre-orders (scroll down the page to see the "Muggle Counter on the right side) in (even though the press is hilariously reporting that as 1.6 million - go figure) for the seventh and final Harry potter book with two weeks to go before the release date - and yes, that means amazon is selling almost 10% of the 12 million book first printing by itself. However, if you think that amazon is swimming in cash, you'd be wrong. Apparently Jeff Bezos decided to sell the book at no profit and throw in free shipping to boot. This is not just a one time strategy though, apparently Amazon "sacrifices $600 million in shipping revenue each year" just to keep it's customers loyal. Bezos also noted in the same press conference that "platform sandals...make my calves look really good".
posted by jourman2 (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's nice.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:14 PM on July 5, 2007


iPotter
posted by wfrgms at 9:17 PM on July 5, 2007


All depends on how you look at it of course. Could also say Amazon is trying to kill off traditional book stores who have to slash their profits, even B&N, (let alone the smaller stores) to keep up. I'm not taking a position on it here, but what Amazon is doing is awfully close to dumping product at a loss to starve out competition.
posted by edgeways at 9:19 PM on July 5, 2007


I (and I assume lots of folks) were also offered a $5 coupon to use with a later purchase.
posted by girlhacker at 9:19 PM on July 5, 2007


I would order, but I don't trust my mailman. To a midnight party I go....
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:21 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


All depends on how you look at it of course. Could also say Amazon is trying to kill off traditional book stores who have to slash their profits, even B&N, (let alone the smaller stores) to keep up. I'm not taking a position on it here, but what Amazon is doing is awfully close to dumping product at a loss to starve out competition.

Repeated for emphasis. Amazon is great and all but please don't think that they just offer really low prices as some act of generosity. Microsoft didn't give away Internet Explorer because they wanted loyalty to their user base either. They just wanted Netscape out of business.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:30 PM on July 5, 2007


Yeah, it does seem a bit like a product dump to me too, but it's a thin line between that and a loss leader system to get people to buy more stuff, since they're already on the site to get the Harry Potter book.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:33 PM on July 5, 2007


The free shipping offer is just the usual Free Super Saver Shipping. You still need to buy enough to push the total over $25, and you won't get it release day.
posted by nmiell at 9:42 PM on July 5, 2007


He told the 50 or so shareholders gathered at the Seattle Repertory Theatre that Amazon sacrifices $600 million in shipping revenue each year, thanks to the $79-a-year Amazon Prime free shipping membership . . .

Those are interesting conceptions of "sacrifices" and "free shipping."
posted by brain_drain at 9:54 PM on July 5, 2007


It seems like the one time local bookstores might actually make a dent in Amazon sales is during the Harry Potter midnight release parties. I'd be surprised if Amazon truly noticed any sort of impact, yet I imagine it really means a lot to the brick-and-mortar shops.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:12 PM on July 5, 2007


Please walk to your local independent bookstore and order your books.

Use Amazon if you want to order a vibrator.
posted by four panels at 10:17 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


If I had a local independent bookstore, that might be an option. (There wasn't one before Amazon came around either)

Amazon's not trying to put anyone out of business, they just want to generate goodwill with their customers to ensure future, loyal purchases.
posted by acetonic at 10:27 PM on July 5, 2007


they just want to generate goodwill

Offering the biggest-selling book of the year at *no profit* isn't designed to hurt competitors? Yeah, tell me another one.
posted by mediareport at 10:56 PM on July 5, 2007


Random Harry Potter and bookstores facts, from someone who worked the last 2 releases at a chain bookstore, and will be at this one as a customer:

- Every single employee, from the newest cashier to the general manager had to sign a form stating all the stuff they wouldn't do - sell the book ahead of time, open the boxes with the book in it, etc. Harsh penalties were hinted at for anyone breaking the rules. This was the only book release I ever had to sign something for. In addition, they specified how many minutes before midnight we could start breaking down pallets, and open the individual boxes. I believe it was 60 minutes and 15 minutes.

- We had the (regular hardcover) book for 40% off. I believe we pay around 44% of cover price for most books. We also had to pay employees, rent, keep the lights on. I'm sure we hoped to make money on all the other stuff - cafe sales, other HP merchandise, other stuff people bought while they were there.

- One release we were the top store in the company. We sold about 1000 copies on release night. Lines around the shopping center - we hit our fire code max capacity about 90 minutes before midnight. The last folks to purchase the book (before many of the employees, who got no additional discount, btw) were the cops doing crowd control. I got home around 3am.

- The pallets of books were packaged more securely than a typical pallet of books. They were wrapped in black plastic wrap and had metal banding around the boxes. In addition, one year they labelled everything "Hanukah". Why they thought that would help, or that anyone would believe we were receiving 4 full pallets (about 4,000 books) of Hanukah books in the summer is beyond me, especially since the ISBN for the book was also on the sign.

- People came to the store hours before the release, prepared to wait. Not all of them had kids, not all were there for the activities. Many were in costume, as was much of the staff.

oneirodynia: It seems like the one time local bookstores might actually make a dent in Amazon sales is during the Harry Potter midnight release parties.

Yep. Amazon will (as I recall) get you the book on the release date. However, it will show up when the shipper typically delivers to you. For UPS and me, that'd be around 5pm on Saturday. I had more than half of book 6 read by that time 2 years ago. I want my book as soon after midnight as possible, and so do a lot of other people. I think that's more true of this release than any other HP release as well - it's the last book, it's the last chance for the kids to come out for a midnight release party. I suspect there will be more than a few parents swayed by those arguments.

Also, Amazon has more than bookstores for competition on this one. *Everybody* gets in on the Harry madness. I saw a sign at my local supermarket advertising the book and related events. I wouldn't be surprised to see it at convenience stores. Places that don't normally push books will have this one.
posted by booksherpa at 11:16 PM on July 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


(I work for Amazon, but not in this part of the business, and I do not speak for the company)

The most compelling reason I've heard for Amazon to sell Harry Potter at a loss is that we're still not selling it as cheap as Walmart is (I'd provide a link but walmart.com is down for "scheduled maintenance" - what year is it? 1998?).

Ultimately, Walmart will probably sell quite a few more copies of Harry Potter than we will.

"Amazon.com: slightly less evil than Walmart"
posted by bbuda at 11:20 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Please walk to your local independent bookstore and order your books.

Use Amazon if you want to order a vibrator.
posted by four panels at 10:17 PM on July 5


I agree with the sentiment four panels, but not the example. I walk to my local independent adult bookstore for my sex toys. I use Amazon for sending things to my family and friends in other states.
posted by figment of my conation at 11:28 PM on July 5, 2007


I'd have ordered from Amazon, but their political donations skew Red. B&N skew Blue, so they get all my orders. Prices are comparable, anyway.
posted by galtr at 11:32 PM on July 5, 2007


I'm not sure it's accurate to say that Amazon sacrifices $600 million annually in shipping revenue with their Amazon Prime program. I know that I've ordered a lot more books from them since I've had my Amazon Prime membership, so I suspect that they're gaining more in book sales than they're "sacrificing" in shipping costs.
posted by tdismukes at 12:17 AM on July 6, 2007


It was funny, the local bookstore in my town had Book 6 on the shelf because his distributors decided that since to "saturate the market" they just sent him what they sent his only competitor... WalMart. WalMart sold out in an hour (because his store was a tiny hole in the wall, and there was no way he'd have more than 20, everyone went to walmart).

He had his books for a week, and was getting customers sent from the barnes and noble the town over, and the other walmart, since he was the *only* person in a 20 mile radius who had copies for sale. Luckily he was even able to sell other stuff too (which was great, since he was your local anarchistic book store that also sold DIY books, mother jones, and childrens literature).
posted by mrzarquon at 1:28 AM on July 6, 2007


I read somewhere that any shop selling HP at around half price (eg Tescos, Waterstones, in the UK) would be making a loss. The reasoning behind it is that HP readers don't usually go into book shops and so this one-time buy might lead to more profitable sales.

I've read news stories that put the pre-order amount at 1.6 million as well, with claims that this is more than HBP's 1.5 million. Does this mean that the Deathly Hallows has fewer orders than the previous book? Has the BOTTOM FALLEN OUT OF THE POTTER MARKET??
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:29 AM on July 6, 2007


Thanks to this post, I have been reminded to pre-order my copy of the book so that I can read it before everyone starts spilling the outcome.
posted by malaprohibita at 4:13 AM on July 6, 2007


My local bookshop is selling it at full cover price and bribing customers by donating the discount to the school at the end of the road.
posted by patricio at 4:32 AM on July 6, 2007


They have to lose some money on shipping with Amazon prime - or at least leave it on the table, since it's not only books. I got free 2nd day air on a 70lb table saw, which I assume cost them a non-trivial amount of money.
posted by true at 4:41 AM on July 6, 2007


Pity the poor mailperson who suddenly has a hundred ten pound bricks added to his route.
posted by ColdChef at 5:36 AM on July 6, 2007


Every time news about Amazon's Harry Potter plans came out it was depressing (especially the $5 gift cards yesterday).

What was even more depressing though was that many indie shops had really great ideas for how to still make money off of Harry Potter. Some of the stores had planned elaborate parties where they would charge admission, but customers would get a really cool experience.

Then Scholastic came along with more than 7 pages of rules about what could and couldn't be done with the Harry Potter book.

As an aside, with the exception of the gift card give away, what's the point of a loss leader on the internet? Do people really browse a website the same way they would after getting a good deal in a store?
posted by drezdn at 5:46 AM on July 6, 2007


Do people really browse a website the same way they would after getting a good deal in a store?

Well there's those tacked on recommendations that probably score some sales ("People who bought HP7 also bought The Chronicles of Chrestomancy, etc."). And if their discount brings the book in under the minimum for free shipping there's a good chance of a multi-unit sale, which is a metric that retailers watch pretty closely.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:58 AM on July 6, 2007


The free shipping offer is just the usual Free Super Saver Shipping. You still need to buy enough to push the total over $25, and you won't get it release day.

Definitely true on the first part (everyone that wants free shipping had to buy another 7 or 8 dollars worth of stuff to hist $25), but I'm pretty sure you're wrong on the second -- all Harry Potter books in the mailstream are supposed to be delivered on release day.
posted by inigo2 at 6:04 AM on July 6, 2007


Please walk to your local independent bookstore and order your books.

You live in NYC (I'm fighting the temptation to add "asshole" here, which I probably would if I were still there myself, that being a standard greeting in the city). Those of us who live in towns without a single independent bookstore are very grateful for the existence of Amazon, thank you very much.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on July 6, 2007


I order from amazon.co.uk because I like reading Harry Potter in the original English.

The tough thing for me is to avoid spoilers during the extra week it takes for my copy to arrive via international mail.
posted by jazon at 6:44 AM on July 6, 2007


Those of us who live in towns without a single independent bookstore are very grateful for the existence of Amazon, thank you very much.

The internet has independent bookstores as well.
posted by drezdn at 6:51 AM on July 6, 2007


Please walk to your local independent bookstore and order your books.

Unlikely. I would have to drive there, place the order, wait for it to be delivered to the store, drive back to store and pick it up. I read 5 to 10 books a month. It would not only cost a fortune in gas but would be ecologically irresponsible (if you believe in global warming). Instead I get it delivered to my door by a truck that is going by my door every day anyway. Even better would be a downloadable digital book version but I have not made that jump yet, or if most titles are even available.

order from amazon.co.uk
Try Amazon.ca, they often have the English titles and it avoids shipping by air.

Apparently Jeff Bezos decided to sell the book at no profit and throw in free shipping

Makes sense. Amazon is a public company and they live or die based on growth, a big shot of revenue growth would be good. A weak P/E ratio, EBITDA and other things are not as important. Also, of those 1 million people ordering what percentage are new customers, it is probably cheaper to get new customers this way (mailing lists, etc..) than the traditional way.
posted by stbalbach at 7:00 AM on July 6, 2007


I'm fighting the temptation to add "asshole" here

How about "ignoramus"? Apparently anywhere that's not New York is not worth even thinking about.
posted by oaf at 7:26 AM on July 6, 2007


And yet copies of the bible sit unsold on shelves all around the country. That is the greatest - no *the* greatest - no the *greatest* tragedy.
posted by oxford blue at 8:16 AM on July 6, 2007


Sure it is.
posted by oaf at 8:38 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


And yet copies of the bible sit unsold on shelves all around the country.

...buh. Wha?
posted by everichon at 10:33 AM on July 6, 2007


Use Amazon if you want to order a vibrator.

Will somebody PLEASE think of the mom and pop sex shops?!
posted by Esoquo at 10:36 AM on July 6, 2007


Barnes and Noble has the latest Harry Potter on pre-sell for 40% off. (Note, as an Amazon affiliate, I am "sacrificing profits" to tell you this.)

Jeff Bezos does have comely calves, though.
posted by misha at 12:31 PM on July 6, 2007


Support independent book merchants on the internet! Unless they grow to be successful! Then, hate them and everything they stand for! Rinse, repeat.
posted by ColdChef at 12:35 PM on July 6, 2007


Will somebody PLEASE think of the mom and pop sex shops?!

Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, I'd rather not.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:39 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Best sex shop ever isn't mom and pop but mom and, uh, other mom...Toys in Babeland.
posted by misha at 3:36 PM on July 6, 2007


No! Good Vibrations!
posted by everichon at 4:18 PM on July 6, 2007


order from amazon.co.uk

These days, English printing and binding tend to be lower quality than American, which fact is sad indeed.

I have no particular beef with Amazon, and they have lead me in places I might not otherwise have gone. That said, I believe in spreading the wealth. You can order on line from the independants, and they will deliver. Look around. Start here.

Potter, yes. Well, the good news is, it's almost over. Question then becomes, can she resist doing more, and if not, can she be as successful again?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:49 PM on July 6, 2007


independents, dammit
posted by IndigoJones at 5:50 PM on July 6, 2007


I've used Amazon's "release-day delivery" for the last two or three Harry Potter books, and it's always worked. For those who said they don't trust their mailman - well, neither do I, and it seems Amazon doesn't use them for this. It doesn't come with the regular mail. It seems like they use FedEx or some company that hires extra deliverymen for the day. One time it didn't arrive until about 6:30-7:00pm, but it's always shown up on the day of.
posted by dnash at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2007


One time it didn't arrive until about 6:30-7:00pm

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! I'd rather die.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:24 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


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