AP NEWS
Related topics

Kids Line Up for ‘Harry Potter’

July 8, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Eager young hands grabbed thick volumes of ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire″ at midnight Friday, the moment that bookstores around Britain began selling the boy wizard’s fourth magical adventure _ a massive hit even before its publication.

``I love them,″ said 12-year-old Philadelphian Julia Rainer as she savored her new book at Waterstone’s bookstore in London’s Piccadilly Circus. ``It’s almost as if you’re in the book when you read them.″

She and scores of other kids waited in a line that ran from the cash register through the store, out the door and down the block to buy their 640 pages of excitement at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Far from daunted by the extraordinary length, 11-year-old Anthony Chapman was thrilled.

``I think it’s even better than the other ones, because you get a lot to read,″ he said.

Susan Meier, a 14-year-old from Seattle has had to share her copy with her family, and the took turn reading passages aloud.

``We’ve been fighting over who gets to read a part and then we stop and give it to each other,″ she said.

As Harry’s latest exploits burst upon a waiting world in the middle of the night, it was hard to tell who was more excited _ the book industry or the throngs of youngsters whose genuine eagerness to read it created a marketer’s dream.

Bookstores like this Waterstone’s invited youngsters to bring sleeping bags and await the witching hour.

Early Saturday editions of London’s Times newspaper ran a rave review across the top of Page One by a journalist who managed to get an early copy.

Deeming the novel worthy of an editorial, The Times harked back to the huge popular success of Charles Dickens’ original serializations.

``There has been no publication like it since crowds waited impatiently for the stagecoach and steamer to deliver the latest installment of ``The Pickwick Papers,″ the newspaper said.

Waterstone’s shops in Glasgow, Scotland, and Birmingham and Leeds, England, arranged sleepovers.

In Aberdeen, Scotland, staff at Ottakars bookshop was renamed ``Pottakars″ for a midnight opening, and staff were dressed up as witches and wizards.

At the Glasgow Waterstone’s, events manager Kim Hardie called the response to phenomenal, saying ``about 80 percent of my time in the last fortnight (two weeks) has been spent dealing with Harry Potter queries.″

At the Borders shop in Glasgow, Simon Biggam said children will be offered a Saturday breakfast of Muggle muffins and fizzy cocktails.

``We’ve never known anything like it,″ he said.

Britain’s Amazon.co.uk Internet site promised customers their pre- ordered copies would go in the mail Friday, with the goal of getting them delivered by Saturday.

Staff at the company’s Milton Keynes distribution center in southern England worked through the night to ensure that about 65,000 copies were ready to ship.

Amazon expects to send 53 tons, or 41.6 million pages worth, of the book to British readers.

Although it may not have the old-fashioned music of cash registers ringing in its ears, the U.S. Amazon.com site had totted up more than 300,000 sales _ more than six times the existing pre-publication record set in March by John Grisham’s latest novel, ``The Brethren.″

``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire″ occupied the top spot on the bestseller lists of both sites.

The first print run by the book’s British and U.S. publishers totaled 5.3 million copies.

Author J.K. Rowling was too busy last year writing this book to do much publicity for ``Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,″ the third book in the series.

This time, she’s doing book signings on a promotional tour that sets off on a Hogwarts Express train from ``Platform 9 3/4″ at King’s Cross station, where the boy wizard and his friends embark each year on their way to adventures.

At 640 pages, the new book is double the size of its predecessor, ``Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban,″ which was greeted with similar excitement when it was released last year. It sold 64,000 copies in hardback in its first 2 1/2 days.

New York-based bookstore chain Barnes & Noble said it already had 360,000 pre-orders and expected to break records for first-day and first-week sales for any book in the company’s history.

Some bookstores broke the embargo set by U.S. publisher Scholastic Inc. and began selling copies early.

Tom Schuppe, an independent bookstore owner in Stockton, Calif., said he had not signed an agreement with the publisher to make his customers wait. By Friday morning, he had sold out of his 50 copies.

Others, however, were waiting to celebrate the midnight launch.

About 400 people had reserved copies of the book at Borders Books and Music in Lawrence, Kan.

``We don’t do nutty stuff like that very often, but this is maniacal,″ said Doug Weaver, a manager at Borders. ``It’s amazing. This is a phenomenon.″

``They’re hard to put down,″ agreed 11-year-old Rebecca Gant, a Lawrence resident. ``I love a good story.″

AP RADIO
Update hourly