Friday, July 20, 2007


We have our Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shipment in an undisclosed location. I can't tell you where it is. It could be in my office next to my chair, or possibly in an armored car circling the building (pick one). The books were printed in a secret location with alarms on the pallets in case they've been tampered with. Really! I'm not kidding.

To receive my books, I had to sign a four page legal document with Scholastic and my book distributor (very different from a game distributor). The document stated that I can't sell the book early, display the book early, tell anyone where the books are stored, allow employees or myself to borrow or view the book, and all under penalty of serious legal action. I definitely can't take a picture of the cover and show it on my blog (see below for those who claim to have done so). In fact, I haven't even opened the box. It might not even have the Harry Potter books. It might contain a dozen copies of the number 3 book on Amazon, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The new Harry Potter book is number 1 and the book on CD is number 2.

The penalties for breaking the rules are severe and they do take legal action. You can see what happened to those who broke the rules here. The offending companies are facing a $200,000 lawsuit. So this four page document has some teeth and surprisingly, the leaks are extremely limited. I remember it used to be worse with earlier books, but people learn quickly.

That's why I have such a problem with Wizards of the Coast, the 500 Pound Gorilla of the game world and the publisher of the most popular role-playing books. About 60-70% of all role-playing books sold are from Wizards of the Coast. So it's been frustrating that over the last several months, at least three books were released early to the book trade, which uses book distributors instead of game distributors. The book trade, comprised mostly of Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other large stores, broke the street date by selling them early. This included the hugely popular Star Wars Saga Edition and a couple Dungeons & Dragons releases.

I don't think the book trade intentionally broke the date, Wizards just didn't do a good job of letting them know. A four page enfored contract probably wasn't necessary, but maybe a magic marker with a date on a box could have worked. The game trade got apologies from Wizards the first time, more apologies the second time and a promise to fix the process, and then the third time.... silence. It seems the game trade, at least small vocal stores, aren't worth their time.

Street dates are an honor system (lacking a 4 page contract). They level the playing field by requiring vendors to sell product on the same date. It lets the store with the 7pm UPS delivery compete with the store with the 11am delivery. It allows West Coast and East Coast people to get the books at the same time. It's fair. The result of blown street dates or uneven street dates between trades is eroding the value of street dates and eventually they'll be ignored.

The other possibility is that I order my Wizards books from my book distributor, which puts me on the same playing field with Barnes & Noble and the big boys. It's not as good a fit for game stores though and I think it undermines the hobby trade, which Wizards should remember they need for all their other games.

The Deathly Hallows book cover:

or is it this one?

This one???



  1. Never got into Harry, but I know the kids just love him. Still have yet to sit through any of those movies either. The book should fly off the shelves though. It's a shame some jerk already leaked the book onto the net, but these are the days we're living in I suppose.

    Nothing Wizards does surprises me. Hopefully some of the smaller companies can make more of a dent, but the odds are against them. It's hard for a stote to give shelf space to other games when Wizards product sells as well as it does.

    With the digital initiative, I'm interested in seeing what Wizards does in the months ahead. I'm wondering if there would be anyway to make ordering from the computer at the store worthwhile from sites like Lulu or rpg now. Probably not. I'm not sure it could be done where the store could make a profit.


  2. There have been seminars at trade shows about digital ordering from the game store. The technology just isn't there yet. The best we can do is try to support small press folks.