Why was that a good idea? That was the question I asked myself when I first found out. Hold on a minute, I better back up a bit.
The matter in question, with all its dark irony, began when a 10-year-old girl came in with her mother. Mom was browsing up front and I noted that the girl was on an important mission. I asked her what it was. She was looking for copies of Quidditch Through The Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle The Bard. “Ah,” I said. We have the goods. I walked over and handed her Quidditch and Beedle. I noticed that Fantastic Beasts was not on the shelf though. I told her I needed to see if we had any in overstock. “Mom,” she yelled out, clutching the two books like they were a beloved terrier who had almost run out into the road, “they’ve got them.” Mom came over. I rallied back round to break the news that we were out of stock.
“Can I order you a copy?”
“Sure. It’s awesome to have these. I’ll come in as soon as Fantastic Beasts is here.”
Mom nodded and I got their info and put in the special order. Everyone was happy. The first sign that something was amiss came in the purchase order confirmation the next day. I noted that her order, along with two more copies of store stock, had not picked up. I knew my young customer was expecting her copy by Friday so I cross referenced the stock status on ipage. This is what I saw.
All right, the $9.99 little green hardcover was discontinued and a $12.99 replacement edition wasn’t coming out until March 14, 2017. An ominous thought took hold of me. I checked other wholesalers and found the same info, along with no loose copies to grab. The Fantastic Beasts screenplay edition was coming out in November. I recalled Lovecraft’s words. “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
Could it be that these three pieces of information were all connected? Was it possible that the November publication of the screenplay had resulted in the deliberate suppression of the original book until well after the movie had run its course next year? I put in a call to Scholastic to find out. It turned out that my foreboding was accurate. Legal considerations regarding the screenplay edition had been brought to bear to the effect that the original edition of the book had been taken off the market until next March.
Why was that a good idea? That was the question I asked myself. It made no sense to me. I would totally have understood replacing the $9.99 edition with a fancier one, but to remove it from the market? I think tons of them would have sold in the run up to the film and that those sales wouldn’t have impacted the sales of the screenplay edition much if at all, and at what price were those extra sales being manufactured? Keeping a book in hardcover to capitalize on a movie can be mercenary at times, but the book is still available. The suppression of a narrative version of a book that has already been in circulation in order to compel sales of a screenplay edition is a very different story. It’s a customer service nightmare and booksellers are the ones who are going to be left to explain it in person to their customers. The upshot was all negative and no positive. How was disappointing a 10-year-old girl a good idea? Lovecraft was right: “some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
How was I going to explain this to my 10-year-old customer? That was going to be a fun phone call. Fantastic Beasts and where to find them? Where to find them indeed!