Of all bookselling stories, tales from Harry Potter releases made me feel like I missed the heyday of bookselling. A friend told me about the time he was carrying embargoed stock for the 7th book, what had been, then, the last book, and he dropped the cardboard box. The cardboard, not being the impenetrable fiber it needed to be, ripped open. He threw himself on the box to cover the rip, and prevent the secrets from within seeping out.
These were the stories I heard about. Including dress ups, excitement. I’ve worked in bookselling a few years, and have seen several embargoes, namely the Harper Lee release Go Set A Watchman, which didn’t cause too much of a stir.
While the world remained skeptical about whether the play format of the book would ruin the integrity of Harry Potter (it does, and it doesn’t), and the cynics speculated about how much involvement J.K. Rowling had, I steadied myself for being part of a release of Harry Potter.
With the help of fellow bookseller Baz, we convinced our boss that we should open on Sunday, just for Harry Potter; of all fictional characters, you can’t not open for Harry Potter. We planned to open a half hour before, and an hour after the release time: 11:01 on the 31st July. As it got closer, the crowds formed around the counter as Baz (carefully) opened the box.
There was a moment of politeness; no one wanted to run, no one wanted to be the first: no one wanted to be rude, not on Harry Potter Day. The customers lined up one by one, and were excited to hold the next installment. Students admitted to avoiding study to read it, and parents, to ignoring their children, and children, to ignoring their free-time.
It was heart warming to see beaming children excited about the new book; it reminded me that it didn’t really matter whether this 8th installment of the Harry Potter era should have been added, because it has been. It’s there for those who want to continue the journey. A young girl tested the first few pages of the new book, checking to see if she would be able to read it and follow the story. I asked her what she thought “It’s really easy, just don’t look at all the names all the time” she told me.
Thanks to all those who came along and joined us in our excitement for this book. And for giving this bookseller her first and only Harry Potter release.
Photos and Words by Jayne Mulligan