Print copies of J.K. Rowling book are super-scarce; eBay sellers cash in

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Earlier this week, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling was outed as the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a mystery published in April under the name Robert Galbraith. The book, which had sold modestly up to then, has raced up the bestseller lists.

Just one problem: Print copies of the book are extremely scarce, because this demand hadn’t been anticipated. (That’s a strike against those who claimed that this was all a marketing stunt — along with Rowling’s PR firm’s statement that this “was not a leak or elaborate marketing campaign to boost sales.”) The book’s U.S. and U.K. publishers are scrambling to get more copies printed: In the U.S., Hachette will start shipping a 300,000-copy print run this week; in the U.K., Little, Brown is printing 140,000 more copies.

In the meantime, however, most bookstores don’t have print copies of the book. Amazon says the hardcover will ship in one to three weeks and refers readers to Kindle if they want to read Cuckoo immediately:

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 9.33.26 AMThis is freaking out bricks-and-mortar booksellers who fear that by the time that they finally get print copies in, everyone will already have read it on Kindle. The New York Times quotes one store owner: “People who can’t get it as a book are going to run and get it as an ebook. By the time the books are back, two weeks from now, most people are going to have read it on some device. That really concerns me.”

If you really can’t wait, you could always buy a copy on eBay, which is doing a brisk business in “first editions” of the book. A scan of the listings on Wednesday revealed 51 copies available, ranging in price from a reasonable $20.98 to a hefty $610 (with 24 bids!). And one U.K. seller raked in nearly $2,000 for a copy of the book signed by “Robert Galbraith” (Rowling’s publisher confirmed that she had indeed signed a few copies under the pen name).

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