Katniss defeats Harry Potter... or does she?

This just in: Hunger Games Trilogy Outsells Harry Potter! ABC, Washington Post, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News... everyone's excited for Katniss Everdeen.

Here's the catch: It's misleading as hell. And it's being repeated all over the 'net. Sure, the Hunger Games trilogy has outsold the Harry Potter books... on Amazon. Supposedly.

Contrary to popular belief, there are millions of books sold every year from booksellers other than Amazon. Yes, they exist. Online and off. Want proof?

As of June 2011, the most recent figures I could find, Harry Potter books had sold about 450 million copies. The numbers Scholastic released this month for The Hunger Games trilogy declare about 50 million copies, print and digital. In other words, about one-ninth what Harry Potter has sold.

That's nothing to sneeze at, and it's worth pointing out that Hunger Games is only three books published in four years with one movie, while the boy wizard has been flying his broomstick for 15 years through seven books with eight movies.

But I find the journalism very disappointing, with dozens of news outlets leaping in with the same misleading headlines. While the stories vary in their breathlessness, none of them point out this staggering Amazon-centric bias that insists the only bookseller we should consider is Amazon, and the only books that matter are the ones Amazon says we should read.

In fact, Jezebel (usually one of my favorite sites) comes right out and says Amazon is "the only bookseller that really matters anymore." Considering that Harry Potter managed to sell 400 million copies and more without Amazon, that's clearly bull.

As an author and a journalist, I am greatly concerned by this.

Dig a little deeper into the motivations, folks. Amazon declares Hunger Games the winner for all-time sales over Harry Potter just in time for the DVD release, while Amazon spokeswoman Sarah Gelman refuses to release the actual sales numbers. We're just supposed to take their word for it. And no one questions this timing?

Instead they simply parrot what Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson said, that it's amazing how Hunger Games overtook Harry Potter in just four years. Several times Nelson's comment is quoted as being from "Book World's Sara Nelson" as if she were a columnist for Book World, when her entire statement was a press release reprinted by Book World word for word.

The New York Times comes the closest to actual journalism by asking Scholastic – U.S. publisher for both series – and they state currently there are 150 million copies of Harry Potter in print in the U.S. and only 50 million for Hunger Games. That's still three-to-one in favor of Hogwarts, just in America.

I have no doubt that Hunger Games is well on its way to being a true literary phenomenon. But the lack of critical thinking in these press releases retyped as news is quite worrisome, particularly when an ulterior motive from the source is so obvious.

More to the point: It proves conclusively that there are many, many booksellers that matter just as much if not more than Amazon. Amazon is the biggest and the most convenient to be sure, and its colossal impact on publishing cannot be denied. But there are thousands of brick-and-mortar bookstores, online sellers and direct sales from publishers out in this brave new world, and the real numbers show that it would be foolish to ignore them.

As to whether Katniss's arrows will truly defeat the Boy Who Lived, I leave that for you to decide.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Stumpy

On how I damn near killed my fool self

Workaversary