In response to scores of booksellers angry over the pre-pub selling of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by its book fairs division (News, Mar. 17), Scholastic is reorienting the program to drive customers into stores. Customers who order Phoenix through the school fairs will now be given a coupon they can redeem at participating retailers, and Scholastic will reimburse stores for every coupon they receive. Under the original plan, customers who ordered Phoenix at the fairs were to pick up the book directly from a Scholastic warehouse.
To help make sure that customers go to stores rather than warehouses, Scholastic has destroyed all warehouse promotions and developed new materials, including all signage, that highlight participating retailers as the source for picking up the book. The change in policy was outlined in a letter from Scholastic senior v-p for the trade group, Michael Jacobs, that was sent to American Booksellers Association headquarters, directors of regional associations and ABA board members.
Jacobs said that "our goal has always been to make the publication of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the biggest bookselling event of the year and that's what we're doing." In addition to providing materials to direct customers to stores, Scholastic has canceled plans for parties at the warehouses, which will be open only to customers who can't make it to stores. Retailers who participate in the coupon program will also receive 10 collectible Phoenix hats that the company had intended to give away at warehouse events. Jacobs said that while the change in the fair policy "will cost some money, it's worth it to keep the magic of Harry Potter alive."
Booksellers reacted with surprise to the change in tactics by Scholastic. "We're use to wailing and getting nowhere. That they did something is amazing," one Midwestern bookseller said. Cissy Greenbaum, owner of Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury, Mass., told PW, "It's wonderful that Scholastic heard how upset independents are and helped to redirect the business to our shops. I don't think the practice was right in the first place." She added that since Scholastic "owns the whole pie, I appreciate that they cared" enough to change the policy.