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Harry Potter and the deathly discounts

Caroline Davis [The Seattle Times (MCT)]

A lightning-shaped scar, furrowed brow and piercing green eyes are what will greet you in the doorway of the Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard, Wash., these days.

But don't be alarmed. The cardboard cutout of Harry Potter is becoming a familiar sight in bookstores as they prepare for the highly anticipated release of the seventh and final Harry Potter book.

On July 21, children across the globe will eagerly turn the first crisp page after the books go on sale at the stroke of midnight.

But it's not just the kids who are excited.

Bookstores large and small have kicked into high Harry gear, preparing for the release of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"The kids just want more Harry," says Secret Garden Bookshop owner Christy McDanold. The series already has sold more than 325 million copies.

"I wish there was going to be a Harry Potter eight and Harry Potter nine, even though we don't make any money on it," Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said at last week's annual shareholders meeting in Seattle.

Amazon will sell the book for $17.99 (not including shipping), a deep discount from the $34.99 suggested list price.

Bezos also said Amazon has received more than 1 million pre-orders. Those early sales are driving a lot of traffic to its Web site -- people who may buy other books and products that will make money for Amazon.

Other big retailers are offering big discounts.

Costco will sell the book at $18.99, Barnes & Noble and Borders for $20.99 and Fry's, $24.99.

To smaller bookstores that can't afford to cut prices that much, these look like deathly discounts, prompting them to come up with ways to attract buyers.

The Parkplace Book Co. in Kirkland, Wash., is one of many stores planning a midnight release party.

Store co-owner Mary Harris expects a sizable turnout and says the books will sell for $28, representing a 20 percent discount.

Harris says someone dressed as Hagrid, one of the characters, will arrive on a motorcycle at midnight, kicking off the night's activities.

Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle will also open its doors for a midnight party. Among other things, it will raffle off a first edition of Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," store manager Tracy Taylor says. In addition, the Seattle Parks Department and the Pioneer Square Community Association will hold a free showing of the movie "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in a park near the bookstore.

Big chains also will have promotional events.

Barnes & Noble stores will have midnight release parties. The downtown Bellevue store's spokeswoman, Brenda Gurung, says the party will feature a costume contest, games and other entertainment.

A youth lacrosse team will give a ground-level demonstration of Quidditch, a sport played on flying broomsticks in the Harry Potter books.

At Lion Heart Bookstore in Pike Place Market, owner David Ghoddousi says discounted prices offered by the big chains are less than what Lion Heart even pays for the books.

Ghoddousi, however, remains optimistic. He says he loves seeing the excitement of the kids during each Harry Potter book release. Ghoddousi calls the books "magical."

"You can travel the world in your living room," he says.

At the Secret Garden Bookshop, there will be no discounts or "shenanigans," as events and publicity coordinator Suzanne Perry calls them. Perry says the store has many customers who will remain loyal to it, despite lower prices elsewhere.

"We still have customers who come back and thank us for pressing the Harry Potter books on them," says store owner McDanold.

Perry says the Secret Garden already has had hundreds of pre-sales a month before the book's release. It's not because of any deathly discount.

There will be snacks, games, and actors and actresses dressed as various Harry Potter characters to entertain the kids waiting in line there.

Plus, the Ballard bookstore will donate a percentage of the book's price_about $7 -- to charities that help children.

"It's about what we do every day, and that's more important than one big book every couple years," McDanold says.

"I try and take the high road and remember it's about the kids."

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