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Pottermania: Good or bad for books?
Woman with books
Is the UK still a nation of bookworms?
Last updated: 15 June 2004 1050 BST
lineThe Harry Potter craze has given a major boost to book sales, but are other books being forgotten, and are our libraries going the same way? Student Ed Leighton considers the situation.
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With Pottermania once again sweeping the world with the release of the latest film, and with so many authors living locally, books are once again brought into the spotlight. But only vaguely. They are not so much in the spotlight as catching a reflected glow from the golden cloak of Harry Potter.

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the books and fully appreciate how it has got young children into reading, however I feel that books should be more widely recognised and publicised than in Harry Potter. Is Harry Potter doing as much harm to the book industry as it is good?

There are a multitude of styles out there for young minds to be inspired by, and many fine authors. These include Jaqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman, the local writer Nina Bawden, David Almond and (looking back a little) Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton. Perhaps the media should give as much promotion to these as they do to Harry Potter?

Libraries - A dying breed?

There are over 50 libraries in Gloucestershire, including four mobile libraries which make a combined 450 stops over every fourtnight. They provide book services for the housebound, for the deaf and hard of hearing as well as for the blind. But has the internet meant the demise of the common library?

Not in the slightest. The interest in books, though it slumped through the 90s, has bounced back. Through publications such as the Harry Potter series and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials interest in books has been reborn, and once more the young people of Gloucestershire are discovering the wonders of reading.

Aladdin's Caves- Potter Advertising

Whenever I walk into a bookshop, I hold my breath. I am immediately struck by the sheer number of books that I could choose from. Shelves and shelves of books, with the floor that separates them sprouting promotional stands with large, colourful pictures and quotes from critics on big newspapers.
And plastered over the children's shelves are lables reading "If you liked Harry Potter, you'll like this". This is a gallant attempt by the book shops to promote other books, using the Potter brand to do so.

This type of publicising has lead to a flood of books for youngsters about wands and wizards and all things fantastical. This drive has been fuelled by the re-publication of the Lord Of The Rings books, and the success of the films from these books. Yet in this sea of often mediocre texts by authors merely jumping on the band wagon, quality fantasy novels are being lost.

A few gems have appeared at the same time, but this is more due to coincidence that they were produced at the same time as the Harry Potter phenomenon than by inspiration from J.K.Rowling. For example, His Dark Materials (the best selling trilogy by Phillip Pullman) has become a favourite read among teenagers.

Increased Reading Breadth Among Teens
But while children have always loved to have their imaginations expanded through tales of fictional and fantastic places, the sales of biography and autobiography to teenagers is on the up and up. In particular, books of sports stars are selling well. Meanwhile adults are continuing to show an eclectic taste.

BBC Boost For Books

The continued coverage of the books scene on the radio with programs such as Open Book and the arts show Front Row on BBC Radio 4 keeps the world (or at least that part of it which listens to Radio 4) up to date with the newest releases on the book scene.

However, television recently seems to have remembered that books exist, and has quickly released The Big Read campaign and now the End of Story programs, where best-selling authors begin a story for viewers to finish.

This broadening coverage of books is first meeting the demand for literary information, and then expanding that demand. Harry Potter has sparked a fire of literary curiosity that is spreading fast, and looks to continue to spread for many months to come, provided the books programming continues.

This article contains user-generated content (ie external contribution) expressing a personal opinion, not the views of BBC Gloucestershire.

Article by Ed Leighton

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