It’s a commonly expressed idea that as technology shrinks the world, we are all bound to become more alike. However, the major literary event of the week (year?) in the English speaking world seems to prove this assumption wrong.
International media coverage of the launch of J. K. Rowling’s latest novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, has revealed significant cultural differences between at least three countries with which I’m familiar.
In Britain the BBC was quick to report on a new world record, as if it might re-establish Britain’s place on the world stage (see Potter ‘is fastest-selling book ever’ from the BBC).
In the USA, where the culture is business, the focus was naturally on the sales volume and money. National Public Radio advised its listeners on whether or not they should buy shares in Rowling’s American publisher, Scholastic, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (see Harry Potter and the Pitfalls of Success, but take care — there are apparently better buys on the NYSE).
NPR also reported that given the staggering 8.5 million copies of the book being printed in the US, Saturday Night Live had joked that Rowling’s next book should be titled ‘Harry Potter and the End of Trees’.
Trees concerned the Canadians too, but they had good news to report since many were saved by printing all 935,000 Canadian editions on recycled paper (see Harry Potter goes green for Canadian buyers).
Who says cultural differences are disappearing? Everyone is behaving true to form.