Buyers search for low-cost 'Harry Potter'

The $34.99 price of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is causing sticker shock for some, but most fans are finding cheaper ways to get their hands on the final book in J.K. Rowling's series about the boy wizard.

Bloomsbury Books offered a 30 percent discount for preorders of the book, which debuted on July 20.

Now that is has shot up The New York Times' best-seller list, Bloomsbury is following an industry trend and offering a 25 percent discount to people who are coming in to buy the 759-page book, said Karen Chapman, co-owner of the downtown Ashland bookstore.

She said she has not heard comments about the price.

"Everyone seems to accept that. It's a big thick one," Chapman said.

The first book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," costs $22.99. The price moved up to $29.99 for later books in the series, she said.

Parent Martha Cotton bought "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" the night it first became available at Tree House Books, while her 17-year-old son bought a copy with his own money at Bloomsbury Books.

Cotton said she did not have a problem with the price, especially since the books will be read again and again in her house.

"I think it's a 700-some-odd page hardback best-selling novel and you get what you pay for. She's a hard-working author. the time it gets back to Rowling, there's less for her. I'm a big advocate of artists getting paid," she said.

Cotton said she saw the book at Wal-Mart for less than what she paid in Ashland, but would rather see people patronize local bookstores.

Wal-Mart in Talent is selling the book for $17.78. The store had sold out its copies on Wednesday, a cashier said.

The mega-retailer had more copies on Friday in a display area set up right at the store entrance instead of in the usual space for books.

Back in Ashland, DJ's Video is renting "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" for $5 for two weeks. The video store's six copies were rented out as of Friday, a clerk said.

The Ashland High School Library has three copies of the book and a waiting list of several kids eager to have their turn. The waiting list will likely grow once school starts this fall, said Library Educational Assistant Judy Kimball, who also works at Tree House Books.

She said Bloomsbury Books donated a copy to each of the Ashland School District's five schools.

The schools are opening their libraries on a rotating basis this summer because the Ashland Public Library is closed for lack of funding.

Kimball said one student sat in the Ashland High School Library for two hours reading a copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" that had not yet been picked up by a kid on the waiting list.

She said the school libraries get a special discount on books, but the relatively higher price of the last Harry Potter book does impact how many copies the schools are able to buy.

"You have a budget and do the best you can. The value of a library is that libraries share copies. It's not just one person's expense," Kimball said.

News of the regular retail price of $34.99 for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" came as a surprise to Camille Siders, a teacher and volunteer at the library.

"Boy, I think that's a lot. But if kids reread it and it's at the library to be shared, I think it's OK," she said.

The price also seemed high to Livy Krevitz, 15, who was visiting the high school library.

"That's lot for a book. I would probably just wait and get it used or wait for it to be at the library," she said, but added that she doesn't plan to read the Harry Potter book anyway.

Despite the relatively high price, Kimball said she thinks the book is still a good value for people who do buy it. Unlike other must-have children's items from the past like Cabbage Patch Dolls or the Tickle Me Elmo doll, she said kids frequently share their Harry Potter books.

"I had a kid tell me today, 'I don't need to be on the waiting list because my friend is sharing with me,'" Kimball said.

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