Will any future book series approach the success of Harry Potter?

I’d long wanted to offer my thoughts on this topic, so when Today’s Machining World approached me, I thought they were an ideal outlet.  I wrote:

Absolutely. Most of all, the Harry Potter series is a social phenomenon. It’s not mainly about the books. It’s about kids – and often adults – sharing a common reading experience. We crave this kind of social connection – that’s what  Oprah’s Book Club is about too. We like to look forward to the same books, read them at the same time, and talk about them afterwards. If you took these same kids, put them on a desert island,  and just gave them copies of Harry Potter, with no further information or explanation, most of them wouldn’t be so impressed.

With the current Potter series now over, we are looking for something else to latch on to. We may not find it right away, but when we do, the world will be wealthier and have more readers. Some other book series will trump the popularity of Harry Potter – it is simply a question of when.

For a differing point of view, scroll to p.50 to read Megan McArdle, and on p.51 is Kevin Hassett.


...seems like with the advent of these internets, it's even more plausible that the fire could catch easily and quickly.

exhibit a: numa-numa man, star wars kid, any-of-a-million-other-memes

Will (not particularly amazing thing that happened before) happen again eventually?


Totally agree. One of the most important factors in the spread of the Harry Potter phenomenon is the entire internet/telecom revolution. Another overlooked but very important has been the rise of the multinational advertising firm like WPP and O&M. These guys are really able to capture the economies of scale as far as mindshare is concerned using a blast of TV, radio, internet, print,etc. Beyond the obvious, I have the following prediction, in the next 5 years a Radiohead like stunt will pop up for books with great results. The arbitrage by removing an increasingly ineffective intermediary is even greater in the publishing business.
Of course, this experiment didn't work out so well for Stephen King("the plant") but he was probably ahead of his time.

The real winners in the whole digital distribution of books age wil be local language books, which are currently poorly marketed because of a lack of scale. Expect Chinese and Hindi authors to challenge Rowling's 1b haul in the next 25 years.

The biggest change by far the internet will have is that it will shift the burden(& profits) of marketing from the publisher to the author. Today's reserved and shy authors are going to be a dying breed. The next Rowling will be something like a ringmaster in a cage surrounded by global media's vindictive lions.

Also, I wonder how massive marketing camapaigns are going to be financed in the future. Today's money flow is like this - me->fidelity->mc graw->publisher subsidiary->rowling. In the future, rowling types might come to market directly or VC's based on past reputation and issue zero coupon junk bonds/equity to risk-tolerant investors.

Megan Mcardle's piracy point is valid but she ignores that both the law breakers and law-enforecers are getting smart very quickly. However, information theft can be fought the only way one can fight it- by bundling it with something that's hard to copy. Concerts in the case of music today, personal reading sessions and a chance to meet intersting people at those sessions bundled with books probably.

Heck, you don't need to be defensive about the quality of the books. A whole lot of people -- myself included -- were well over 18 when we read the first book. I admit I wasn't really hooked until book 3, but I liked the earlier books well enough to keep reading.

I'm not sure there is another series of young adult fantasy novels that can compare in terms of quality, quantity, and approachability. Series that I absolutely loved as a child, like The Dark is Rising or the Chronicles of Prydain are both shorter and less consistent, and I'm inclined to say that Potter has more moral heft to it as well. Narnia gets a lot of good press, and I liked it as a child, but when I tried rereading it before the movie came out, I found it almost unreadable.

Totally unrelated, but wasn't there a thread a while ago wondering why this sort of service hadn't sprung up more widely in airports?

I actually found the last two books to be less enjoyable because of the hype and mania. Since I didn't want the ending to be ruined I read them much faster than I would have liked to (and the ending was still ruined in the sixth book). The feeling that I couldn't control the pace at which the story unfolded was frustrating.

That said, I'm sure the hooplah surrounding the books was a major contributor to their success.

Based on this, it looks like economists have a new outlet as literary critics in manufacturing trade journals once they stop blogging. Another Black Swan, and Creative Destruction at its finest.

Did the Harry Potter books sell better than the Bible?

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