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HP-19: The Cultural Phenomenon

Predictions of Harry’s Fate. Record pre-orders. Upcoming bookstore bonanza release parties. And to think, just 10 years ago, HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE was released in the UK with a tiny print run (based off a tinier advance) little fanfare and a warning to J.K. Rowling not to expect to get rich from writing children’s books. And as AP’s Hillel Italie carefully points out, the exact opposite happened because Harry Potter jumped from being merely a publishing phenomenon – catering to hundreds of thousands of readers – to a cultural phenomenon, reaching millions of fans. Like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” it is the story of how a work of popular art becomes a world of its own – imitated, merchandised and analyzed, immortalized not by the marketers, but by the fans. And like those two works, Harry Potter is a true phenomenon because it wasn’t manufactured, but organic and grassroots that has changed the state of teen fiction, fandom and other related activity.

“I think the reason that authors write books about J.K. Rowling’s works and readers buy them is because being a fan of Harry Potter is about much more than just reading and enjoying Rowling’s book series,” said Jennifer Heddle, an editor at Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The company, not only responsible for more than 100 “Star Trek” related titles, but will publish a Potter history by Leaky Cauldron proprietor Melissa Anelli. “I think it is similar to ‘Star Trek’ in that it takes place in a richly imagined world that invites fans to immerse themselves in every aspect. I think it’s even closer to ‘Star Wars’ because it’s also a very mythic story that appeals to a broad audience that crosses all age and gender lines.”

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