Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2003

Fifth ‘Harry Potter’ blockbuster breaks e-commerce record

June 22, 2003

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— Amazon.com shipped out more than a million copies of the new Harry Potter book, making Saturday the largest distribution day of a single item in e-commerce history.

Orders for "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth installment in J.K. Rowling's hit series, nearly tripled those for the previous record-holder at Amazon. The old record of 410,000 was held by Book 4 in the series, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in 2000.

More than 760,000 advance copies were ordered from Amazon.com's U.S. Web site, up from 350,000 for "Goblet," and orders on its overseas Web sites brought the total to more than 1.3 million.

Amazon offered a 40 percent discount on the recommended retail price of $29.99. Even with the $3.99 standard delivery fee -- which guaranteed the book's arrival Saturday -- its customers saved money on the list price. Many bookstores here and overseas also offered discounts.

At the company's five "fulfillment centers" in Kansas, Kentucky, Delaware and Nevada, special teams placed the books in green-and-white boxes with labels warning sternly that no delivery was allowed before Saturday, though there were a couple of glitches. At least two copies of the new book were delivered Friday in South Bend, Ind., hours before the book's official launch.

Being part of Pottermania was a kick for workers at Amazon and at the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx Corp., which handled actual deliveries.

"I was walking down the hall the other day and saw someone wearing Harry Potter socks. It's fun for everyone," said Jani Baker, a spokeswoman with Seattle-based Amazon.

Postal Service spokesman Peter Hass in Portland, Ore., said the service was delivering more than 700,000 books for Amazon on Saturday.

The book's release likely made the parcel load "a little heavier today, but we enjoy delivering it," Hass said. "I think our employees are probably as excited about it as the customers are. ... They expect some kids to be waiting for the mail today."

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