Sunday, July 29, 2007

SOUND OFF: PREMATURE MAGIC

According to The Baltimore Sun, Jon Hopkins of Davidsonville, Md., was among a small number of people who received their mail-order copies of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ahead of the book's widely publicized July 21 release date -- four days early, in his case (The spell is broken -- baltimoresun.com). Granted that the book was legally obtained from its legitimate publisher, and that the publisher's embargo is legally binding only on vendors, not on purchasers, it was still obviously sent in error.

Should Hopkins have returned the book? waited four days before opening the package? Devoured it in a single sitting, like thousands of other Pottermaniacs? Or done something else?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at rightthing@nytimes.com.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

9 comments:

Mary Jan said...

Enjoy the book.
Don't spoil it for others.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Jon Hopkins’ early arrival of the latest Harry Potter book, he should have just kept the book, but not read it or said anything about it to anyone, until the official release date. Going to the trouble of sending it back would only take more time, and then he would receive the book late. Its no problem as long as he doesn’t “spill the beans” to anyone else that shouldn’t know ahead of time.

This is from Laura in Santa Ana, CA. I read your column in the Orange County Register.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Seglin,

So a Mr. Hopkins received the latest copy of the Harry Potter books four days early. What should he do with it?

How about reading it? Isn't that why he ordered it? That's what I do with books I order no matter when they arrive.

He doesn't have to blab out the ending to others who hadn't yet received theirs. But if he bought it soly for prestige and bragging rights (i.e. "I got mine first"), he can do that without revealing the ending.

Or he could have done what I'll do. Wait a year and buy a copy at a used book store for less than one-fourth the cover price. Then when I'm done I'll donate it to Goodwill.

I doubt it will become a true "collectors item" that will command hundreds of dollars in a few years.

If he sent it back to the seller they'd probably think he's just an idiot. I would.

Burl Estes
Mission Viejo, CA

Anonymous said...

A lot of blame got passed around, and everyone says it was a "big mistake" that the books were shipped early. Given the security that surrounded the book, I doubt the books were actually shipped out "by mistake." Having said that, I was more disturbed by the fact that individuals who received the copies early, sold them on e-Bay for hundreds of dollars. In particular, one gentlemen sold a copy to _Publishers Weekly_, THE periodical of the publishing industry. That action alone speaks volumes about the current ethical climate.

Jeffrey Seglin said...

You raise an interesting point about the gentleman who sold the copy he received early to Publishers Weekly via an eBay auction.

Any reason for your anonymity? Email me at rightthing@nytimes.com to let me know.

Rooty Toot Toot said...

The Sun story sounds kind of fishy. I mean, "Jon Hopkins" from Baltimore??

Anonymous said...

Jon Hopkins from Baltimore! Fishy indeed. Now THAT'S comedy!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Seglin,
I am an independent bookseller, so my remarks about the premature
shipping of _Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows_ might have seemed like "sour grapes" to readers if they knew my background. It is difficult to be a small independent retailer in this age of "big box" stores and deep discount Internet concerns. Even so, the downtown area joined us in presenting a _Harry Potter_ celebration that attracted over 300 adults and children. Everyone had a great time, and many people commented on how great it was for the rest of the downtown businesses to be a part of the party.

Did I sell 300 copies of the book? No! Many participants came to the party, and then traveled to the local Wal-Mart, Target, or Borders (25 miles away) to purchase the book for $20.00 instead of the regular cover price. The fact that the money spent in my shop stays in the community to support community activities, rather than go to "big box=
"corporate coffers, does not seem to mean much any more. Instead of us being the "first" place for shoppers to look for items, we are more likely to be the "last" place people look. Most of the time, we have had what the shopper needed all along. The sad truth is that we don't have the "big bucks" to advertise, nor have we the ability to "brand" ourselves as easily as the big guys. But we hang on, carving a niche for ourselves in a world where most people only care for the "lowest price" rather than customer service and quality. With a little bit of hope, a prayer, and a lot of customer service, we independents will survive and continue to carve.

I hope this answered your question.

Dorothy Pittman
Horton's Books & Gifts
410 Adamson SQ
Carrollton GA 30117
(770)832-8021 (770)838-1152(fax)
Georgia's Oldest Bookstore
www.hortonsbooks.com

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Seglin,

As an addenda to my previous posting, I would like to add that many of the areas residents support my store. We have been named the Best Bookstore in the county for four years running, and the best gift shop for three. There are folks in the community who understand how important it is to support local business, and with the help of our Carrollton MainStreet program and the Carroll Tomorrow effort, we hope to increase this local support. Visitors come from around the country to visit our store. The bookstore has been recognized for its 115 years of business by both the city of Carrollton and the Georgia State Senate. We plan to celebrate our birthday with a customer appreciation "big bash" in September. We also know that without that base of customer support, we would not be celebrating our many years in business.

Thanks,

Dorothy Pittman
Horton's Books & Gifts
410 Adamson SQ
Carrollton GA 30117
(770)832-8021 (770)838-1152(fax)
Georgia's Oldest Bookstore
www.hortonsbook.com

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