Scholastic Children's Books, the U.S. publisher of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," announced Thursday a suggested retail price of $29.99.
"That's definitely the highest price for a children's novel we've ever seen," said Diane Mangan, director of children's merchandising at the superstore chain Borders Group Inc.
"That does seem to be the highest," said Carolyn Brown, a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble.
The previous Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," was published in 2000 with a suggested price of $25.95. Most children's stories cost far less. A popular novel from last fall, Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord," had a list price of $16.95.
A spokeswoman for Scholastic, Judy Corman, acknowledged that some customers may object to the price, but cited increased production costs and the new book's anticipated length, well over 700 pages.
"Clearly, the cost has gone up for printing, paper, etc.,"' she said. "We're hoping people can afford it, but this is a very big book, a third larger than the last Potter book, and we have to be realistic."
Few will actually pay $29.99 because stores offer significant discounts. Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, which had been selling the book for $17.97, will now charge $17.99.
"We had been making an educated guess about how much the list price would be," said Amazon.com spokeswoman Kristin Schaefer. Customers who already ordered the book from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble will still pay $17.97.
Rowling's four previous Potter novels have worldwide sales of more than 190 million. Within hours of last month's announcement that "Order of the Phoenix" was coming out June 21, the book topped the bestseller lists of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com and remained in those spots as of Thursday.
But popular books such as "Order of the Phoenix" present a problem for independent stores, which often can't afford such discounts. Margaret Maupin, a buyer for the Tattered Cover in Denver, said her store compensates in other ways.
"We offer better service and everything we make we give back to the community. We are part of the community and that is not the case for stores with a national presence," said Maupin, who added that she has received a "significant" number of orders for the new Potter book.
By Hillel Italie