Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Serves them right ...

... Last Harry Potter leaks online.

This news fills me with the wonderful thrill of schadenfreude. Allow me to explain.
A few years ago, at BookExpo America, I attended a panel discussion regarding embargo agreements. Those on the panel proudly declared that they never had and never would sign an agreement to honor a book embargo (i.e., promising to publish nothing about said book until the date of publication). I found the whole business sufficatingly sanctimonious. I had, have, and will continue to sign such agreements. Why? Because it's in the interest of The Inquirer's readers, that's why. I'm in the business of getting them news about books as expeditiously as I can, not in the business of being holier than thou.
But the lengths to which publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic have gone to prevent anyone from knowing anything about the latest Harry Potter book until the precise moment the publishers allow them to has reeked of arrogance. No review was ever going to give away the ending. And the publishers know as well as I do that the New York Times will get a copy of the book beforehand. They always do. They got a copy of the last one. So refusing to grant other papers any pre-publication access to the book gives the Times an advantage by default. Quite frankly, as a representative of one of those papers, I resent that.
Moreover, there is something inherently offensive about a publisher going to such extremes to prevent information from becoming public. I would have have gladly signed an embargo agreement - and I would have honored it to the letter, as I always have. Bloomsbury and Scholastic would have earned the good will born of civility and cordiality. As it is, I have to review the Potter book. But when something else comes along that Bloomsbury or Scholastic would like special attention paid to, I suspect I'm going to suddenly discover my Missouri roots.
So I'm glad, really glad, that all their security measures have come to nought. It's what they ought to have come to.


  1. Anonymous10:02 PM

    Missouri roots? Missouri Compromise? I'm confused....

  2. Old saying: "I'm from Missouri." Means "I need to be shown."

  3. I found the whole business sufficatingly sanctimonious.

    I also wonder how many bookstores - and their staff - were also (very quietly) fraked off by the much-hyped 'security' measures to makes sure nobody even looked at the holy texts before the contracted hour. In my experience, the booktrade is full of people who are honourable, as well as having a keen sense of their marketplace and commercial self-interest. Obviously Scholastic and Bloomsbury think otherwise....

    And another observation, Frank, I'm sure your more aware than most that no newspaper can cover more than an infinitesimally small fraction of the novels published in any given week at any length. Let alone the column miles expended on this books.

    Perhaps a little less whinging and a LOT more gratitude would be in order from Ms. Rowling and her publishers?