ANDREW FFRENCH asks what series will next grab the public’s imagination after Potter.

WITH the final instalment of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books now hitting movie screens, booksellers in Oxford are enjoying the latest rush of shoppers buying up her backlist.

Oxford itself has some strong connections with the boy wizard, with actress Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the movies, being a former pupil of Headington School and Oxford schoolboy Arthur Bowen starring in the last film as Harry Potter’s son (see page 25).

But the search is still on for a writer who can fill the author’s shoes when it comes to sales and generating excitement among the nation’s readers, both young and old.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series, was published in 2007, and part two of the movie is now out, but since then only Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series has provoked a similar level of hysteria among readers and booksellers.

However, booksellers in the county insist there is still plenty for muggles to look forward to.

Last month, JK Rowling revealed she is planning a new website – Pottermore - which will provide new content and develop characters from the books with 18,000 words of new material.

Within minutes of the announcement four million people had registered their details, and when the website is launched in October digital versions of the seven Potter novels will be available for download for the first time.

Mark Thornton, manager of Mostly Books in Abingdon, which has celebrated its fifth anniversary, told The Guide the launch of the Pottermore site could be a “gamechanger” for the books trade, leading to a large increase in people reading on electronic devices including Kindles and iPads.

He said: “From an industry point of view it’s fascinating and it could be like when Dire Straits released Brothers in Arms on CD – lots of people started buying music in the new format.

“At the same time, I don’t think normal books will disappear because when people are reading them they can cut themselves off completely from the real world – when you are using a device like a Kindle there will always be a level of distraction.”

Mr Thornton said authors including Stephenie Meyer, Anthony Horowitz, Charlie Higson and Robert Muchamore had succeeded in writing series that attracted a loyal following of young readers.

But he added: “They’re not quite in the same league as the Potter books, which were read by young and old. If there is a new Harry Potter out there we might not know about it yet and its reputation could grow through word-of-mouth recommendations.

“We got a huge response to a new book by an author called Kate O’Hearn, who writes for girls and combines material about horses and Greek myths. When you get readers pre-ordering titles and coming into the shop on the day of publication, that’s very exciting.”

Charlie Hayes, events manager at Waterstones in Broad Street, said booksellers would always have fond memories of queues forming in the street each time a Harry Potter novel was published.

He said: “There is huge hype at the moment because of the last film and people are coming into the shop to buy the books again.

“Harry Potter was the cultural phenomenon of the noughties and the popularity of the books should last in the same way as CS Lewis’s Narnia titles.

“It’s an exciting time to be a bookseller because people are starting to read stories in digital formats, but even though the way we are reading is changing the desire to find good stories will never change.”

New formats or not, after the Harry Potter books sold 450 million copies worldwide, and spawned a series of films grossing $6.4bn to date worldwide, the search for the next JK Rowling will continue.