Harry Potter for less than $2

Dhaka, August 3:

‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’, released on July 16 to an adoring and all-ages readership worldwide, is available for just $1.53 in this Bangladeshi capital. Children at many traffic signals of Dhaka hawk the latest episode of J K Rowling’s immensely popular ‘Harry Potter’ series. The original price is $29.99.

“If you go to a bookshop, it will cost you about taka $23, but I will charge you only $1.53,” said Runa (single name), a 13-year-old, with what appeared to be a pirated version of the book. Runa and scores of other children, as also adults, are on the streets selling pirated versions of ‘Harry Potter’ at slashed prices just weeks after its worldwide release.

Book importers and sellers here voiced objections against the piracy. Jibran Tanwir, senior manager, marketing of ‘Words n Pages’, the bookshop that sells Harry Potter in Bangladesh, said this problem was unexpected.

“We are selling the original book, bought from Penguin in India, at taka $23,” Tanwir said, “For any new book, the pirated copy comes out just days after the original. But people don’t realise there are numerous linguistic and grammatical mistakes in the pirated books.”

‘Etcetera Bangladesh Limited’, another book retailer, also found to its chagrin that the pirated versions of Harry Potter had hit the sales of the original. But street vendor Abul Hossain was satisfied with the pirated versions of the book, especially because he could set his own price tag. Piracy had also affected former US president Bill Clinton’s ‘My Life’, his wife Hillary Clinton’s ‘Living History’ and Taslima Nasrin’s ‘Ka’ in previous years.

Book importers said most of the books were pirated by people who were not genuine publishers or importers. The Copyright Act in Bangladesh came into effect in July 2000, but its implementation has been limited and largely ineffective. But this is a blessing for at least a section of readers that cannot afford books at their original price.