| A poster of the book cover on display at a store. Picture by Pabitra Das
10 pm, Friday: Six guards swoop down on a consignment from Delhi at Calcutta airport. Secure trucks scatter to three locations across the city
11 pm: The stock points are under the scanner, all entry and exit points identified. The patrol is on, all people leaving the buildings are subject to inspection
6 am, Saturday: The goods are ready for transfer
8 am: The assets change hands
10 am: The cash registers go crazy
The magical madness will be let loose on Muggle-land, but only after this final — and most secretive — sojourn of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The 15-year-old wizard is sure to be bone-tired even before the fans frantically delve into his 768-page escapade.
But take heart: the sales embargo till Saturday, 10 am, not only ensures that Harry is kept hush-hush, but also that Calcutta readers will get to dig into the fifth instalment hours before those in the US, or even J.K. Rowling’s home country, England.
The most closely-guarded literary goldmine of all time — with two securitymen at every stock point till 6 am, H-Day — has surpassed every expectation. The clamour just won’t stop, with distributors and retailers constantly revising orders — up, up and up some more. It seems that the 6,000 copies flowing into Calcutta will not be enough to appease the appetites, waiting since 2000 for another course of the Hogwarts fare.
“Distributors will watch sales for a few days to decide how many more they will order,” says Nirmalya Roychoudhury, head, east, Penguin India, which is distributing the Bloomsbury book.
Landmark seems to be leading the supply-and-sales race, expecting around 750 copies. And with good reason, too. “We have received over 300 pre-orders, with advance payment,” says Gautam Jatia of Landmark.
Compare this with the 100 copies of Hillary Clinton’s Living History that will sell in 15 to 20 days, adds Jatia. The Lord Sinha Road store has scored with its 10 per cent discount and free magician’s wand thrown in, with all orders placed till Friday.
The book will be launched on Saturday morning, with Usha Uthup handing over the first copy to director, British Council, Sujata Sen, at Landmark. The afternoon will see kids trooping into the Potter Party, with fun and games straight out of Potter’s world, like Snatch the Snitch, and guessing how many Bertie Botts Every-Flavour Beans are in the jar.
One of the three distributors, Timely Book Centre, is choosing the “shubho” day to kick off its second centre at M.G. Road. It had opened the Rowling register at Calcutta Book Fair 2003, where around 500 people had signed up for a copy.
“So, we are giving an introductory discount,” says proprietor J. Tanna, ordering 1,100 volumes in the first delivery.
India Book Distributors (IBD) has the largest contingent coming in — 3,000 copies. “We had originally ordered 2,000, but we didn’t think that would be enough. We will probably order another 1,000 copies soon,” explains Rajesh Khanna of IBD. India Book House will have another 1,200 copies, and expects to requisition more shortly.
‘Who dies'’ has to be the burning question of Book V. And the answer could be in the hands of at least some fans at 10 am, Saturday, June 21.