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Harry Potter

The Oxford Companion to the Book

Harry Potter 

Phenomenally successful British children’s book series by J. K. Rowling published 1997–2007. The seven titles, starring the boy wizard Harry Potter, began their publishing lives modestly, with Rowling’s *literary agent struggling to find a publisher, before the eventual acquisition of the first book by *Bloomsbury for a small *advance. By the time of the midnight publication of the final book—commercially, the biggest single publishing event in history—the Harry Potter series had become an unprecedented global phenomenon, shifting 2.7 million copies in 24 hours in the UK, and with 12 million *advance copies printed in the US where *Scholastic has been the publisher of the series since 1999. After the first novel became a bestseller, the publication of later titles was carefully orchestrated, with strict embargoes and release times encouraging media speculation and mass reading events. Official and unofficial online communities, including fan fiction sites, contributed heavily to the series’ growth. Later volumes were published simultaneously in bindings for adults and children. *Pirated and *counterfeit versions of the books were legion in markets such as China.

The series benefited from canny marketing, effective distribution, global rights sales, merchandising, and multimedia *adaptation. Although some critics disputed the books’ literary merit, children and adults around the world voraciously consumed the books, overturning late 20th-century predictions of the ‘death of the book’.

Claire Squires