The Harry Potter rollout last weekend required almost as much planning as Gulf War 2:
- As if by magic, more than 400,000 families across the country opened their front doors Saturday to find a neatly packaged “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” book on their doorsteps.
But the mass delivery of J.K. Rowling’s fifth bestseller about the boy wizard was hardly a snap-of-the-fingers, wave-of-a-wand task. As the largest ever e-commerce distribution, it was the carefully orchestrated result of five months of planning between the top minds at online booksellers Amazon.com Inc. and Barnesandnoble.com Inc. and package-delivery giants FedEx Corp. and the U.S. Postal Service.
A record-breaking 5 million copies of the 870-page Harry Potter novel were sold this weekend, more than 1.3 million of them ordered in advance worldwide from Amazon alone.
….Among the top priorities during the planning stage of the distribution was security. The company didn’t want to jeopardize the suspense surrounding the June 21 launch. An inside look at how the novels moved from Scholastic to Amazon to FedEx to people’s homes shows just how carefully each step was plotted.
Early last week, Scholastic Corp., which holds the U.S. printing rights for the Harry Potter series, sent piles of books to Amazon’s five distribution centers — one in Nevada, Kansas and Delaware, and two in Kentucky. A special, secure “Harry Potter Zone” was set up in each of the fulfillment centers, which processed more than 2.2 million pounds of the books. The areas were encircled by an eight-foot-tall barrier, and only people with a special identification on their badges could enter. Guards patrolled the perimeters.
The workers labeled each book, wrapped them in Amazon’s trademark brown box and then moved them to another locked area.
On Thursday and Friday, the books were transported to undisclosed FedEx storage facilities. Meanwhile, FedEx computer gurus were hard at work generating route maps that each driver was instructed to study in advance so, as company spokesman Jess Bunn put it, “they could operate at maximum efficiency.” The cages holding the books were cracked open before the sun rose on Saturday. The novels were then flown or driven to FedEx distribution centers, where they were placed on delivery trucks. [Washington Post]
Pretty cool when it all goes as planned – another step toward the normalization of online retail.