An extraordinary love for the fantasy world of Harry Potter has one leading Australian bookseller predicting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be an all-time publishing record breaker.
The Australian online bookseller, Booktopia, took 300 pre-orders in the first 12 hours after the announcement of a new Harry Potter book.
This compares, says the retailer's chief buyer John Purcell, with dozens of pre-orders locked in after the announcements of E.L. James' Grey and Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman – each of which went on to break Booktopia's pre-order records.
In the quieter weeks of the year an Australian bestseller need only sell 2000 copies in one week to reach number one, says Purcell.
Come July 31 when the book becomes available online and in print, and all the pre-orders are counted from around the country, Purcell is expecting The Cursed Child tobreak Australian publishing records.
The Cursed Child is the script for a West End play by playwright Jack Thorne, from an original Harry Potter story Rowling helped developed, and will pick up where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off with Harry, Ron and Hermione seeing off their own children to Hogwarts.
Dymocks also expects the book to be huge with fans following the success of the colouring book and illustrated edition but marketing manager Sophie Higgins says there had been a general misunderstanding that The Cursed Child was a standalone novel.
Purcell says it isn't only children buying the new Harry Potter book but rather the children who read them originally, now adults, who are desperate for more.
"Many re-read the seven books on a yearly basis," he says. "The impact of Harry Potter on readers who were at the perfect age when they were initially released is sometimes lost on those who were adults back then. Harry Potter left an indelible mark on the imaginations of a whole generation. This book will be incredibly important for these readers."
The secret charm of the Harry Potter books, says Dr Camilla Nelson, senior lecturer in writing media and communications at the University of Notre Dame, is not just the magic but in how much reality they contain. .
"It's the way J.K. Rowling takes ordinary things in children's lives – eating jelly beans, buying your school stuff, sitting a school test, dealing with a school bully, joining a sports team – and fills it with magic and wonder."
Dallas Baker, lecturer of editing and publishing at the University of Southern Queensland, thinks the Potter books are headed towards a place alongside Tolkien as fantasy classics.
From the likeable Harry to the smart and ethical Hermione Granger, the character driven stories appeal across genders and personalities. The wide range of secondary characters such as Ron Weasley, Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom, resonate with marginalised kids, and big kids too.
"Like Tolkien's The Hobbit, more so than The Lord of the Rings, the Potter books connect with readers who enjoy nostalgia and innocence," says Dr Baker.
"Although there may be some crossover between Potter fans and readers of other blockbuster fantasy series like Game of Thrones, in the main readers of Rowling's fantasy fiction are drawn to writing that celebrates and upholds old-school virtues, innocence, loyalty, fairness, rather than revels in blood, sex and gore."
Rowling's own engagement with fans through Twitter and the Pottermore website, says Baker, has helped create a space where new and old fans can connect with each other. In this way the Harry Potter series shares much in common with Star Wars and Star Trek, where stories are also part of a franchise that includes movies, games and merchandise.
Dr Baker says he wouldn't be surprised if The Cursed Child wasn't Rowling's last. "Rowling herself has noted that there is a huge pressure on her to revive the series, mostly from readers, but the publisher would also be keen to see that happen. What business wouldn't want all that money?"