Who Says Reading is Dead?

Maybe it’s the exception that proves the rule, but the seers who say the traditional book is dead and that kids don’t read anyway were buried this past weekend by an avalanche of Harry Potter books.

A book that sells 500,000 copies is considered a best seller. U.S. sales of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” were 6.9 MILLION in the first 24 hours. As the sixth in a series you might think the novelty would wear off, but “Half-Blood Prince” broke the Potter record of 5 million set just two years ago by “Order of the Phoenix.”

The weekend U.S sales were on the order of $140 million, easily eclipsing the combined gross $88 million for the heavily promoted movies “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Wedding Crashers.”

And the Potter books are not light beach reading. They are tomes running over 800 pages, but still the youngsters _ and their parents _ snatch up each installment of the strange and eerie doings at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

All of this has made the author, the pleasant and unassuming J.K. Rowling, the wealthiest woman in Great Britain with a net worth of $1 billion _ more, the tabs like to point out, than the queen. Rowling pursued her vision of Harry Potter out of poverty and obscurity and she surely deserves whatever riches her young wizard might bring.

The latest volume is darker and more violent than its predecessors, but Harry is growing up and shortly will turn 17, the age of maturity for a wizard, and Rowling says that the seventh installment, which she will start to work on this winter, will be the last.

“I am dreading it in some ways. I do love writing the books and it is going to be a shock, a profound shock to me. Even though I have known it is coming for the past 15 years, I have known that the series would end, I think it will still be a shock,” she said in a BBC interview.

Somehow we don’t think a voice as imaginative, inventive and energetic as Rowling’s will be silent for long.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)