London, Sept. 10 (Reuters): Harry Potter taught kids around the world the joy of reading. Now Madonna is going global in the thriving kids’ book business with a publishing first.
The pop superstar’s first children’s book — The English Roses — is being published simultaneously next Monday in more than 100 countries and 30 languages.
State-of-the-art technology has sent language barriers tumbling so printing plants around the world can spring into action in every tongue from French to Faroese. “This is a publishing first with regard to numbers of languages and territories,” said Nicholas Callaway, president of the Callaway Editions, the originating publisher, who has co-ordinated the global release. “We have languages as varied as Chinese and Czech, Thai and Turkish, Hebrew and Hungarian,” he said.
“This would not have been possible 18 months ago. We send so many digital files through the Internet,” Callaway added.
More than one million copies are hitting bookstores around the world next week, backed by a marketing blitz that takes Madonna from London to Paris and then on to the Oprah Winfrey talk show in the United States.
As the hype builds, Callaway is the first to pay tribute to JK Rowling, whose five wizard sagas have broken publishing records.
”Everyone owes a great debt to Harry Potter for introducing a new generation worldwide to the magic of children's books,” he said.“Interest in children's books is on the rise and thankfully we are part of that trend.”
Critics may carp at the spotlight focusing on Madonna, a genius at both spotting and setting pop and fashion trends.
Helen Fraser, managing director of Penguin Books who will be publishing the book in Britain, concedes that cynics will grumble about hype as the 45-year-old mother of two bursts into print after years as a raunchy pop star.
”Whenever somebody as famous as Madonna does something, cynics will use the“H” (Hype) word,” she told Reuters.
In the now-standard children's blockbuster tradition, details of the plot have been kept strictly secret.
But Fraser insists that the book Ä the first of five written by Madonna for kids Ä will“appeal to people from eight to 80 which is the ideal range for publishers.”
And she agreed that children's books were now the industry's big success story.“It is suddenly an area that big companies are concentrating on. Now people realise it can be very exciting and that the very successful children's books are read by adults.”
A spokesman for the Nielsen BookScan research agency which monitors over 140,000 titles a week, said in Britain alone, the value of children's book sales has risen 40.5 percent in the first eight months of 2003 compared with last year. Kids' books now make up 16 percent of the British market.
That point was rammed home on Tuesday when Bloomsbury Publishing, Potter's British publisher, reported a 14 percent rise in first-half profits.
”This publishing phenomenon continues to grow in size and value,” said Chairman Nigel Newton.