Harry Potter und der Orden des Phoenix

September 7, 2007 at 8:19 am | Posted in Globalization | Leave a comment

As part of some ongoing research I’m doing into globalization and localization of content (specifically web content), I was curious to see the differences that would show up in localized versions of a very popular book. Scanning Amazon for Harry Potter books I found that Order of the Phoenix seemed to have the best representative sample of localized language versions available and set about a comparison, shown below.

The first thing to note is that this is not a very scientific study. The numbers may be wrong (is the Japanese “4 lbs” a rounded number?). And I can’t separate out differences in the weight/thickness of the paper or cover, the margins, or the type size. But those, taken together with the fact that some languages require more words than English to get the same point across, form a composite picture of the differences for localized versions.

It seems that Scholastic, the publisher for Harry Potter, leaves significant leeway to publishers in different countries as to how to publish the book. Only the Russian cover was the same drawing as the English cover. The Japanese cover was dramatically different in colors, style, and mood. The size of the book differed dramatically as well, representing different market needs to fit in (or stand out) on bookshelves as well as printing press and shipping concerns. The Japanese version is by far the thickest (2.8 inches) and heaviest of the versions I checked. The French book had the largest pages while the Russian version was practically pocket sized.

I normalized each version to see how many pages it would be if the page size was the same as the English version (column 8 above) and found the Japanese version to be be 62% more pages than English. Quite a difference, although margins don’t scale equally so this is just a rough estimate.

I was also curious to see the lags in publication date. Would they be simultaneous? Equally spaced as if planned? The answer is no to both. The French version was the earliest to follow English (I have other indications that lead me to believe it was published near the end of 2003) and Japanese readers had to wait over a year for their translation.

Now the next step is for me to learn Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and French so I can read the books and point out any interesting additions, deletions, or watering down that occurred in translation. Look for a blog entry from me around 2042 for those results …

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