Thursday, July 19, 2007

All things Harry

Leaking chamber of secrets

With one day left till the worldwide release of the last instalment of the Harry Potter series, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, spoilers threaten to ruin the ending for all of us. Mahima Kaul explains why you need to watch where you click

What is with this Harry Potter mania?

When J.K. Rowling started to write the series, she did not have a target audience in mind. Her publishing house, Bloomsbury, assumed it would appeal to children the most. But its imagination, themes, and the hard questions it poses have transcended age. It’s not everyday that a series sells 325 million copies worldwide — and is translated into 63 languages! 250 million copies of Deathly Hallows have already been pre-ordered. Britain is going to release a series of 7 postage stamps to commemorate the event! Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the movie adaptation of the fifth book, raked in $330 million worldwide on its first weekend. An entire industry that includes toys and games feeds off the Harry Potter franchise. Mania, indeed!

What are spoilers? And fan-fic?

Spoilers basically tell you the plot of a yet unreleased movie/book. Harry Potter is not the only series to face this problem — for the Sex and the City finale, four separate endings were shot, so that if one ending leaked, they could use another so as to keep the finale fresh for viewers.
Some Potter fans, such as those who run the websites and vowed to keep away from spoilers, and have refused to publish the rumours of plot-points floating around the Internet.

Many online communities have kept themselves entertained by creating Potter fan-fic, which are fan based versions of how the book ends. They are both harmless (for the publishers, especially) and quite popular. The key difference is that spoilers claim to be the real thing while fan-fic is a take-off (and often a tribute) to the original.

Where and who leaked them?

A month ago, someone going by the name of Gabriel claimed that he had hacked into the computers at Bloomsbury and posted key plot points on his website. He said it had been easy since many employees had kept chapters and drafts of the book on their computers.

More recently, a sequence of photos of a hand leafing through the 700-page book has been released on the Internet. The story doing the rounds on blogs is that someone who was responsible for counting the number of books in a carton took these pictures and posted them online. While many maintain that this is also fake, some bloggers claim that the photographs of the book’s epilogue were taken by Barnes & Noble employees themselves. Scholastic, Rowling’s US publisher, has neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of the leaks.

So how are the publishers protecting the book?

The final book was published in an undisclosed location. The 65 publishers worldwide have started delivering copies to bookstores for the synchronised world book launch. There is major security — there are sensors on the cartons which will go off if it is opened before time, tracking devices on delivery trucks, and even guard dogs posted at certain storage places.

While the publishers have been asking people not to re-post spoilers floating on the Internet, they will definitely not hurt sales figures because all Potter fans will like to own a copy of the book!

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