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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 July 2007, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Asda apologises for Potter jibes
The cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The dispute affected an order of about 500,000 Harry Potter books
Supermarket chain Asda has apologised for criticising the publisher of the new Harry Potter book for a "potty" recommended retail price of 17.99.

It had accused Bloomsbury of "blatant profiteering" in a press release and in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live.

Bloomsbury then cancelled a delivery of 500,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but cited a row about "unsettled bills" as the reason.

However, Asda has now stressed the book will now be on its shelves after all.

It is currently advertising it for less than half of the recommended price - 8.87 - on its website, the same as arch-rival Tesco.

Many other chains are offering similarly large discounts, but independent bookshops have complained that they cannot compete with this pricing policy while still hoping to make profits.

'Long-running' row

Asda had accused Bloomsbury of "attempting to hold children to ransom" by pricing the book at nearly 18.

Before the apology was made, company spokesman Ed Watson told BBC Radio Five Live that he believed it was no coincidence the publisher wanted to stop Asda's order.

"It just seems funny that after we expose the potty Potter price hike, Bloomsbury are trying everything they can to stop kids getting hold of Harry Potter at a price they can afford," he said.

However, Bloomsbury always denied that this statement had been a factor in the row.

Instead, marketing director Minna Fry blamed a dispute about invoices had been "going on a while - going on for weeks, actually".

"We always said we wouldn't provide them with the books until that was sorted out," she added.

On the subject of the book's price, however, Bloomsbury did maintain that "at 608 pages, 17.99 is extremely good value".

Page from Rowling's website
The release date for the book was announced on JK Rowling's website
Now, though, Asda has withdrawn its previous statement and has apologised unreservedly.

"We look forward to a good relationship with Bloomsbury going forward, including selling the latest Harry Potter book from 0001 BST on Saturday, 21 July, and many other Bloomsbury books in the future," said an Asda spokeswoman.

And for Bloomsbury, Ms Fry added: "We are pleased that this situation has been resolved and look forward to working with Asda in the future."

Many bookshops are planning to open at midnight on Friday evening to satisfy demand for the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which will bring to an end JK Rowling's tales of a teenage wizard's adventures.

Internet 'leak'

Picture of book pages
The pictures show what appears to be a US edition of the book
With fewer than four days to go, pictures of what appeared to be pages from the new novel have been circulating on the internet.

Minna Fry told the BBC: "There have been so many fake books going up on the internet over the past four to six weeks. We have no reason to believe that these are anything other than fake either."

Meanwhile, the Royal Mail has issued commemorative stamps to celebrate the young wizard's success.

There are seven first-class stamps, each featuring the sleeve artwork from a different Harry Potter book.

And there is also a separate sheet with five stamps featuring the crests of Hogwarts School and its four houses - Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor.

The Royal Mail said the stamps have "some heat-resistant ink that will reveal exciting secrets if you touch them".

One bookseller's concerns about cheap Potter books


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