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Potter discount strikes fear

Chain's plan spurs price war worries

Harry Potter fans lined up outside a London bookstore to buy 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' the last book in J.K. Rowling's series. Harry Potter fans lined up outside a London bookstore to buy "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the last book in J.K. Rowling's series. (Sang Tan/Associated Press)

LONDON -- Maybe it should be called "Harry Potter and the Deathly Discounts."

British retailer Asda Group Ltd. said yesterday it would sell the final book in the Harry Potter series for $10, just over one-fourth of the recommended retail price.

Such price-cutting in Britain is alarming some US industry analysts who fear it could set a dangerous precedent for the US market, where discounters are already waging price wars with traditional book sellers for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and last title of the series.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which owns Asda, is selling the 784-page book, to be released tomorrow, for $17.87 with a 97-cent shipping deal. That's almost 50 percent off the $34.99 recommended price in the United States.

Amazon.com Inc. is hawking the book for $17.99, tempting shoppers who preorder with a $5 coupon to spend online next month. Barnes & Noble Inc. and Borders Group Inc. will be selling the book for $20.99. For Barnes & Noble's members, the price will be $18.89.

"The discounting is going to be spectacularly worse this time than last time" a Harry Potter book was released, said Michael Norris, a senior analyst at Simba Information, a Stamford, Conn., research company. He said the price-cutting in the United States on the book could go deeper if sales at the launch do not meet expectations.

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