Potter magic continues at midnight

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At one minute after midnight Saturday morning, the sixth volume of the Harry Potter series is expected to become the fastest-selling book in publishing history.

At press time, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore had pre-sold 252 copies of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" by J.K. Rowling. And tonight, it will join more than 5,000 bookstores nationwide that are throwing late-night events to celebrate the release of the book.

Meghan Clinton, publicist for Scholastic Books, which distributes Harry Potter in the United States, said the company printed 10.8 million copies during the first press run, breaking a publishing-industry record for first-run printing. The fifth volume of the Harry Potter set the previous record when the company printed 8.5 million copies.

"It's a phenomenon," Off the Beaten Path Bookstore owner Leslie Ryan said. "There has never been anything like this in publishing."

The average reader of Harry Potter is between ages 9 and 15.

Scholastic officials are being very tight-lipped about giving away any plot details of "The Half-Blood Prince." They would only release the book's size -- 672 pages -- and the titles of three chapters. Chapter Two is titled "Spinner's End." Chapter Six is titled "Draco's Detour." Chapter 14 is titled "Felix Felicis."

Fans will have to wait until tonight to learn more. There will be plenty of time to speculate before the first book is handed to the first person in line during a two-hour block party. At 11 p.m., Seventh Street from Lincoln Avenue to the alley will be closed to traffic. At that time, the bookstore will re-open its doors so a line can begin to form. We're Not Clowns will be on hand to keep the crowd entertained.

The bookstore bakery has been hard at work all week on Harry Potter-themed treats for the party, such as cupcakes that explode in your mouth. There will be prizes for best costume and best pajamas. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" will be distributed at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Ryan is sure most of the Harry Potter readers will go home immediately with their books to start reading them.

"This is the kind of book that most of the kids will have it read by the next day, and they will come in to report on it," she said.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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