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Old 01-16-2008, 10:14 AM   #1
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How much is a JK Rowling book worth to you? How about £1,950,000?

Amazon has scored a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling.

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We're incredibly excited to announce that Amazon has purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. The book of five wizarding fairy tales, referenced in the last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is one of only seven handmade copies in existence. The purchase price was £1,950,000, and Ms. Rowling is donating the proceeds to The Children's Voice campaign, a charity she co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.
That's $3.9 million for a book that is only a few months old. I imagine the first edition of genuine classics would have a hard time fetching that much. That is just absurd.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:27 AM   #2
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No. It's a hand-written book of which only 7 copies exist. 6 were given to people with some connection to HP; the one that Amazon bought was auctioned with the proceeds going to charity.

A hand-written book by one of the most famous authors in the world? In years to come it could be regarded as a bargain!
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:36 AM   #3
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You're absolutely right, Harry. At nearly $4 million, the value can only go up!
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:50 AM   #4
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I understand what it is. I still think the price is absurd. I mean... $3.9 million?!?!?!?! I could understand a few hundred thousand dollars. But $3.9 million? I don't even know how to explain how ridiculous this appears to me. Sure, Rowling is famous, but I don't think she changed literature in any significant way (I don't think her books are all that original, even though they are quite entertaining). I'm not disputing the book's worth. It's worth whatever people will pay for it and people will pay big bucks for stuff by Rowling. I just have a hard time coping with the idea that it's actually worth that much. The main value of a book, to me, isn't the author or how many copies exist, but the content.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:57 AM   #5
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It's nice that so much money has gone to a very worthwhile charity, whatever one's views on the worth of the book.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:12 AM   #6
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It's rare, it's for a good cause (well, i hope), and it's a great way for Amazon to get some media coverage ...
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:13 PM   #7
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I suspect part of the value the bidders were considering was the PR value of having given so much to a charity *and* the PR value of having access to the book. Quite a few HP fans probably visited the Amazon site just after the purchase (last month?) to see the photos Amazon put up, deliberately blurred though they were, and some of them may have spent some money while they were there, or at least acquired a favorable impression of Amazon for sharing as much as they did. (There were a few grouches who wanted more, of course, but I think the fans were glad the winner was someone who wanted to share any visuals.)

And even though Amazon can't publish the contents at this point, they may have a foot in the door to negotiate the rights to bring out a version later. That might have factored into their bid, as well.
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Old 01-22-2008, 01:04 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by SpiderMatt View Post
... Sure, Rowling is famous, but I don't think she changed literature in any significant way (I don't think her books are all that original, even though they are quite entertaining)...
I don't think her books are all that original either. Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed them, but they weren't great. However, Steven King did a "Now that the dust has settled" post, post-'Deathly Hallows', that you might at the very least find entertaining.

The point being, significance to literature...to culture...can be a funny thing, not always based on brilliance. I personally think she'll be seen in the future as a figure that had major and significant impact on literature, even if only from inspiring not only readership, but writership. Anyway, here's the Steven King article:

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,2004...050689,00.html

Cheers,
Marc
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Old 01-22-2008, 11:12 AM   #9
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My friends who are librarians have commented that she seems to have made reading much more popular with kids. That's worth something in itself, whether you like her books or not. (I like her books pretty well, though only Prisoner of Azkaban ranks in my "favorites" list.)

Also, at least one other author who publishes in the "young adult" market has been grateful for the ability to write and sell longer books for kids, now that Rowling has proven to publishers that kids will buy and read longer books. So that's a plus, too.

As far as originality and general writing quality goes, she had some well-conceived characters, and more backplot than a lot of authors seem to bother with. She wasn't always so great with logical consistency or (IMHO) pacing. But I did like how the portrayal of the adult characters and the world in general changed as the main character (and presumably the readers) grew older and matured over the course of the series.
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Old 01-22-2008, 11:51 AM   #10
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But I did like how the portrayal of the adult characters and the world in general changed as the main character (and presumably the readers) grew older and matured over the course of the series.
That's the thing that struck me so much about the series. My least favorite of them are Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, not because I find the stories uninteresting, but because Harry is so very angry throughout most of them. I found myself thinking that he and Ron were being stupid at so many points in the story, then I realized that this was exactly in line with the way kids that age behave. It was totally appropriate to the characters, even if it was uncomfortable to "watch" as the reader.

In that case I felt like the characterization was so good that it made it difficult to enjoy the book -- not that I could put either of them down! I particularly found the long awaited explanation of Snape's motivations to be very satisfying. I felt like I finally understood him as I had wanted to do for so very long.
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Old 01-22-2008, 11:57 AM   #11
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However, Steven King did a "Now that the dust has settled" post, post-'Deathly Hallows', that you might at the very least find entertaining.
Cool, thanks for sharing. It was a good article. I'm definitely one of those people who underestimates the power of Potter, though.

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My friends who are librarians have commented that she seems to have made reading much more popular with kids.
Reading Harry Potter is popular. I'm skeptical about its long-term carryover effect for other literature. As someone who has loved books his entire life, I found it pretty irksome when the Pottermania hit and I had to suddenly defend my literary tastes against those who viewed Harry Potter as the pinnacle of literary achievement (an old argument with a friend from school comes to mind: he tried to argue that HP was better than Tolkien's LOTR; the heated emotion and sense of blasphemy that I felt is hard to explain). Only after I read the first four books of HP (which is how many there were at the time) did I understand why it was a popular series. It is a good series, but not great. I can't help but feel that if these people read more, they would understand that.

Sorry for my literary snobbery. It's just how I've always been and I see no reason to change.
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Old 01-23-2008, 07:04 AM   #12
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Cool, thanks for sharing. It was a good article. I'm definitely one of those people who underestimates the power of Potter, though.
Excellent, I sort of thought/hoped you might like it. There's no onus to agree with it, of course.

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Reading Harry Potter is popular. I'm skeptical about its long-term carryover effect for other literature.
There's nothing at all wrong with skepticism - it's how I run my life (that, and the red, blue and green pills, and the daily paid-for beatings, and the icecream...but I digress... ).

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As someone who has loved books his entire life, I found it pretty irksome when the Pottermania hit and I had to suddenly defend my literary tastes against those who viewed Harry Potter as the pinnacle of literary achievement
I wonder if it's worth considering whether you "had to" defend your literary tastes. Sometimes it is an exercise in frustration and pointlessness to defend yourself against someone who is launching their attack from an immovable position (especially when their position may seem irrational and untenable ). It's also worthwhile considering whether you might be similarly staged. I am thinking (from experience of doing the same) that "irksome" might be an intentional understatement on your part, yes?

On the other hand, if you figure out how to resolve such an internal, intellectual stand-off, please advise.

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(an old argument with a friend from school comes to mind: he tried to argue that HP was better than Tolkien's LOTR; the heated emotion and sense of blasphemy that I felt is hard to explain).
...and, hey, that's fair enough. It is completely abhorrent and your friend should be beaten about the head with a large, hardback tome of the combined Lord of the Rings books (with The Silmarillion and The Hobbit jammed in each nasal orifice for good measure)...you know, just by way of offering a convincing contrary argument. I feel the blasphemy, I do!

We should probably not turn it into a religious issue though, hey?

Quote:
Only after I read the first four books of HP (which is how many there were at the time) did I understand why it was a popular series. It is a good series, but not great.
I would tend to agree. It's how I felt too - I actually resisted for some time, being a LotR "purist", but I'm glad I let my "purity" (ie. snobbery) go, as I did enjoy them. My only view that might contest my agreement is that HP's "greatness" may show in what it did. Never in my life have I seen so many (so young!) children reading such large books everywhere, with parents lining up for a new release and buying each of their children, and themselves, a copy, and then watching coffee shops fill up with these people as they couldn't wait to get it home to start. Add that to the rest of the "mania", and, well, it's pretty impressive...great even. See, Harry Potter is mostly over, but the kids, started in on this, will want more. For me, this has lead them into great things, and perhaps they'll get around to some of the greatest (LotR? ).

I really like that, and I like JKR for doing that. The best part for me though is that one of those kids may be inspired (even, or especially, if it's from an already "I can do much better than JKR" attitude) to write something that might leave all our favourites and greats behind. That's a great dream I like to hold up there as a possibility.

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I can't help but feel that if these people read more, they would understand that.

Sorry for my literary snobbery. It's just how I've always been and I see no reason to change.
...but they will read more. As mentioned, when the source runs dry, you've got to find another well.

As for your "literary snobbery", just so's long as your lack of "reason to change" isn't because "it's just how [you've] always been". That way lies stagnation, and you don't seem to me at all to be the stagnant type.

Cheers,
Marc
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Old 01-23-2008, 11:39 AM   #13
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That's the thing that struck me so much about the series. My least favorite of them are Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, not because I find the stories uninteresting, but because Harry is so very angry throughout most of them. I found myself thinking that he and Ron were being stupid at so many points in the story, then I realized that this was exactly in line with the way kids that age behave. It was totally appropriate to the characters, even if it was uncomfortable to "watch" as the reader.

In that case I felt like the characterization was so good that it made it difficult to enjoy the book -- not that I could put either of them down! I particularly found the long awaited explanation of Snape's motivations to be very satisfying. I felt like I finally understood him as I had wanted to do for so very long.
Agreed on all points -- GoF was a little too close to reality for my comfort. OotP was actually easier to take -- though the business with Cho was nearly as squirmy as the whole Yule Ball debacle. I can handle anger more easily than Harry's ineptness in social situations. (And I don't handle anger at all well in real life, so that's saying something.)

I think Snape is the real hook to the series, personally, and I felt quite vindicated after reading the final book. (I remember telling a friend I was only going to watch the movies to see how Alan Rickman portrayed Snape, essentially, because I knew Rowling had favored his casting for the part and was probably feeding him extra info.) Rowling didn't invent the Byronic character, but she may be credited with having introduced him to a much younger group of readers than usual, at least in contemporary times. Usually characters in Western "children's" literature are very black and white. Snape stayed complex to the end. Even after the publication of the final book, people were still asking Rowling if Snape was a hero or not. And her answers were still not simple. I respect Rowling for that.

And whether reading HP books leads kids to read other "literature" (and I'm still waiting for a good definition of that word), they are reading longer, more complicated fantasy books by Garth Nix, Jonathan Stroud, Tamora Pierce, etc. (And yes, probably Tolkien too.) I think there's evidence for a lasting effect on reading a wider variety and longer formats. That's good news.
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Old 01-23-2008, 07:25 PM   #14
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...
And whether reading HP books leads kids to read other "literature" (and I'm still waiting for a good definition of that word)...
Oh, that's an easy one. If you go into a book store, you'll see some shelves are marked "Literature", and some are marked "Fiction". It's good that way, so you don't waste your time on the inconsequential stuff.

Cheers,
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Old 01-23-2008, 08:17 PM   #15
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I wonder if it's worth considering whether you "had to" defend your literary tastes. Sometimes it is an exercise in frustration and pointlessness to defend yourself against someone who is launching their attack from an immovable position (especially when their position may seem irrational and untenable ). It's also worthwhile considering whether you might be similarly staged. I am thinking (from experience of doing the same) that "irksome" might be an intentional understatement on your part, yes?
Debate is actually one of my few addictions. I couldn't stop arguing to save my life. In that sense, I absolutely had to defend my literary tastes. I get pretty passionate about my tastes in literature, music, and politics. As soon as I find someone I disagree with (and I have to admit, I will sometimes seek them out--whether it be consciously or subconsciously), I explode (verbally). It's a terrible habit. From time to time I try to break it, but I enjoy it too much. I'm certainly not immovable, but it takes considerable force. Harry Potter didn't pack enough punch.

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...and, hey, that's fair enough. It is completely abhorrent and your friend should be beaten about the head with a large, hardback tome of the combined Lord of the Rings books (with The Silmarillion and The Hobbit jammed in each nasal orifice for good measure)...you know, just by way of offering a convincing contrary argument. I feel the blasphemy, I do!


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...I would tend to agree. It's how I felt too - I actually resisted for some time, being a LotR "purist", but I'm glad I let my "purity" (ie. snobbery) go, as I did enjoy them. My only view that might contest my agreement is that HP's "greatness" may show in what it did. Never in my life have I seen so many (so young!) children reading such large books everywhere, with parents lining up for a new release and buying each of their children, and themselves, a copy, and then watching coffee shops fill up with these people as they couldn't wait to get it home to start. Add that to the rest of the "mania", and, well, it's pretty impressive...great even. See, Harry Potter is mostly over, but the kids, started in on this, will want more. For me, this has lead them into great things, and perhaps they'll get around to some of the greatest (LotR? ).
I never considered myself a purist. I mean, I loved fantasy authors like Terry Brooks, who is a far cry from greatness, himself. I also loved R.A. Salvatore, who's worse than Brooks (not that either of them are bad, of course). As much as I loved their works, though, they never knocked me on my ass, so to speak. Harry Potter was the same way (I'd say I actually enjoy Brooks more than Rowling--Brooks is actually pretty good and I may have underrated him above). The thing about something like LOTR is that it is such an achievement, with such great depth, that it kind of overwhelms the reader. That's the kind of greatness that I think will always elude Rowling, and I don't know that most of the people she brought into the world of literature will ever realize it (sure, I can be a bit of pessimist at times). Rowling is a very good writer, though. I don't want to deny her that. It's great that she's introduced reading to a whole new audience, no doubt. What really bothered me about the the hype was that her books read like a comic book plot or even other well-written fantasy series before her. I'm a big comic book fan, as well. I love that stuff. I eat it up. And when I read a story about a school of "gifted youngsters" who have to hide their identity from the outside world, what else would I think of? Suddenly, the type of material I've been reading for years is popular due to one author (who didn't really do a whole lot to improve upon the genre) because people were too lazy or bought into the steriotypes about what kind of literature they should be reading. I think I really wanted people to educate themselves rather than just blindly follow the Harry Potter bandwaggon.

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As for your "literary snobbery", just so's long as your lack of "reason to change" isn't because "it's just how [you've] always been". That way lies stagnation, and you don't seem to me at all to be the stagnant type.
Nah, I was being facetious. I actually enjoy being a bit of snob. I don't think I could really be classified as a snob, though. I mean, I do read comic books and R.A. Salvatore. At best, I'm a quasi-snob.

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Originally Posted by montsnmags View Post
Oh, that's an easy one. If you go into a book store, you'll see some shelves are marked "Literature", and some are marked "Fiction". It's good that way, so you don't waste your time on the inconsequential stuff.
Ha! Not all the stuff in the literature section is necessarily great, though. Barbara Kingsolver comes to mind.

For what it's worth, I usually use the word literature to mean the basic "printed material." Although I typically limit myself at books and articles and would never call, say, a cereal box "literature."
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