Published on July 18, 2007
With foreboding as thick as global warming, but cut through with the glee of grinning, toothless witches, Potter Day looms. A section of Bangkok has been rebuilt as King's Cross Station Platform 9¾. Hogwarts wizards are roaming the newsrooms baying for attention. Harry look-alikes are haunting the bookshops.
The final tome in the Harry Potter series arrives on a lightning bolt from Castle Rowling this Saturday, well before dawn in Bangkok's case.
The Potter publishing phenomenon that has gripped the literary world for a decade is poised for its denouement with the closing chapter, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".
As everywhere else in the world, the seventh book will be a statistical marvel for the Thai publishing scene. Despite overwhelming pre-orders, bookstores have gone into overdrive with promotional schemes.
A range of "specials" await the first in line for the last in the series - generous prizes including holiday package tours of the film locations in Britain.
Kim Chongsatitwattana of Nanmee Books, which publishes the Thai translations, says no previous Potter book has generated this much excitement. Nanmee has had 10,000 advance orders and expects more.
"Perhaps it's because it's the last instalment," she says, "but Nanmee has built up a solid fan base for the whole series."
Fans will be playing games and vying for prizes at the Nanmee outlet at Siam Paragon on Saturday starting at 5am. The book chain's Harry Potter Fan Club has more than 10,000 members, and about 400 are expected at the launch.
Kim is currently negotiating with the series' publishing overlords, Bloomsbury, to invite JK Rowling - the most popular children's author in the universe - to come and meet local devotees at the end of the year. "We're not sure if it's possible, but we're trying hard to get her to Thailand," Kim says.
Nanmee has sold more than a million copies of the six earlier Potter books. "The figure is impressive," she says, "but it's nothing compared to the 325 million copies sold in all languages worldwide."
B2S, another bilingual bookshop chain, expects its advance orders for "Deathly Hallows" to nearly double this week, from 3,500 to 6,000. Vice president for marketing Nuntawan Suwandej has been wielding a Bt3-million budget to promote it, coming up with loads of premiums and fun activities.
She's expecting the seventh novel and its related merchandise to bring in Bt70 million by year's end.
Meanwhile Asia Books has trumped its rivals with a genuine Anglo angle. Britain's ambassador to Thailand, David Fall, will be at the book's unveiling on Saturday and formally present a copy to the first purchaser.
Asia Books is also holding a quiz for Pottermaniacs, with the winners destined to tour the English and Scottish locations used in the films. The chain has also had 10,000 pre-orders and expects to sell as many as 30,000 copies in coming months.
It's not all about razzle-dazzle and raking in the dough, of course. The Potter phenomenon has doubtless instilled a love of reading in millions of Thai youngsters who might otherwise have stayed hooked to their video games. The series' fun and fantasy spur creativity as well.
B2S' Nuntawan is adamant that the best thing about Harry Potter isn't his way with a wand - it's that he's turned Thai kids from seven to 18 on to the joy of reading English-language books.