The release of Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” had been a hotly anticipated affair in Britain, with leaked passages telling of fights between Harry and his brother, Prince William, and Harry claiming to have killed 25 Taliban fighters, headlining newspapers across the country in recent days.
But as bookstores placed “Spare” in window displays and flung open their doors on Tuesday, reaction among the British public appeared muted, under a gray rainy sky. Early morning lines teemed with journalists, but regular book buyers were slower to file through the doors.
That seemed at odds with the interest that some booksellers said the memoir had drummed up and with the interest it had garnered online. Waterstones, Britain’s largest bookstore chain, said that it had seen some of the biggest preorders in a decade, and that “unprecedented” numbers of people had ordered the memoir to pick up on Tuesday.
“We expect ‘Spare’ to be one of this year’s best sellers,” John Cotterill, nonfiction category manager for the brand, said in a statement on Tuesday, adding “welcome interest to a usually quieter month.”
Of those who did venture into bookstores, some were curious and others were dismissive of the latest episode in a mounting royal drama that has played out in tell-all interviews, a Netflix documentary series and on social media.
Some said they saw recent revelations by Prince Harry as nothing more than a distraction — the machinations of Britain’s aristocracy at stark odds with the deepening economic squeeze being felt across the country.
“It’s been hugely overblown. I don’t think people care,” said Nikki Kastner, an owner of Herne Hill Books, a small independent seller in South London. “It’s not exactly the Harry Potter launch, is it?”
Others, however, appeared to be more intrigued.
Monika Nicolaou, a self-described fan of Britain’s royal family, dropped by the Waterstones bookstore in London’s Piccadilly Circus to pick up a copy of “Spare” on Tuesday and planned to start reading it on her way to work.
“Dirty laundry should be left behind-the-scenes,” she said, explaining that she disapproved of Prince Harry’s decision to share secrets about the royal family. “I don’t think it was brave.”
In the book, Harry writes about the death of his mother, Princess Diana; about how he and his brother begged his father not to marry Camilla, now the queen consort; his rift with Prince William; his own battles with anxiety and his time in Afghanistan, among other insights.
“It’s making people question whether they really like him or not,” said James Broadley, who was looking at the bookstore’s display with his wife. The book was retailing for 28 pounds, or about $35, but many retailers like Waterstones and Amazon are offering it for half price. Although Mr. Broadley did not consider himself a huge royalist, he nonetheless found the situation intriguing.
A spokeswoman for Waterstones said in an email that the half price offer was customary to give a “balanced offer for Waterstones customers and compete with heavy online discounting.”
“It feels like they’ve gone the tabloid aspect of dishing dirt,” he said, adding that although the book was a “cash grab,” he understood the motivations behind it.
“This is part of him going alone,” Mr. Broadley said. “He’s got to make it somehow.”
The biggest revelation for Elisabeth Stang, 56, a tourist from Norway who picked up a copy of the book at Waterstones, was the extent of the rift between Prince Harry and his older brother, Prince William, now heir to the throne. “They are a hurt family,” she said, adding that the two had lost their mother so young and with the whole world watching them.
“I just think they are more normal than maybe we all think they are,” she said.
Joanna Davey, 38, and also a Waterstones customer, said: “I just feel really sad for him. I think you can tell he’s really experienced a lot of trauma in his life.” Ms Davey did not buy the book.
“It would be better if he sat down with a therapist instead of spilling his guts on paper,” she added. In the book, Harry does write about going to therapy, saying his wife persuaded him to continue it.
Aside from rainy skies, some blamed the wall-to-wall news media coverage of the memoir’s leaked contents in previous days for the less-than-enthusiastic reaction on Tuesday.
“It’s been on the radio all week, people are sick of it,” said Salman Gohar, a London cabdriver. “It took the magic out of the launch.”
“I liked him before, but he’s just going after them one by one now,” added Mr. Gogar in reference to Prince Harry.
For those unwilling to brave the weather on Tuesday, much of the British public took to social media to air their thoughts, flickering between the characteristically satirical, the supportive and the morally outraged. Many lamented that Prince Harry was aggravating mounting rifts in the royal family, while others expressed sympathy for his account of what he and his wife had endured.