It's been six years since Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" debuted, which has since sold more than 40 million copies, and now he's trying to break records and wow booksellers yet again.
"The Lost Symbol," also from Bertelsmann AG's Random House has commanded a print run of 5 million copies, which is massive in the publishing industry. Random House is hoping for another hit: selling out that first run could bring in some $30 million to the book publisher that reported an operating profit of just less than that in the first six months of the year. Sony Pictures Entertainment cashed in on "Da Vinci Code" and the book's prequel, "Angel's and Demons," which it turned into films in 2006 and 2009. Sony has the rights to this latest book release and if it's a huge hit you can bet it'll try to create another hit film.
But today's book release isn't just about those companies that are lucky enough to profit from Dan Brown's latest release. The whole book industry is suffering, with sales of adult hardcovers down 18 percent and paperbacks down 14 percent in the first half of the year. If people rush into bookstores to buy a cult hit, as they did with "Da Vinci" or "Harry Potter," it's good for all booksellers, as they're likely to pick up something else while they're at it. So even rival's like CBS's Simon & Schuster are hoping for another literary phenomenon.
The booksellers themselves are hedging their bets. They've also seen their business shrink and they're willing to cut their losses on "The Lost Symbol" in order to get buyers through the door. Amazon has discounted the book 46% to $16.17; Barnes and Noble and Borders are also putting up huge displays and offering special prices.
One wild card for Brown's latest tom: it'll be available on Amazon's Kindle for $9.99. This will be a good test of the concern that the lower-priced e-books will push publishers to lower their prices across the board. The industry will be watching to see where the book sells; I'm guessing that the Kindle audience is still relatively small enough that it won't impact the book sales -- it'll either be another Da Vinci Code or it won't!
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