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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince goes on sale

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince goes on sale

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The age of Potter VI officially dawned last Saturday, as millions of fans from hot New York to chilly Australia got their hands on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and began to read the darkest of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy novels.

It has become publishing’s most lucrative, frantic and joyous ritual: From suburban shopping malls to rural summer camps, fans dressed up, lined up and prepared to stay up late with their treasured copies. {{more}}

In London, events were muted by the July 7 subway and bus bombings. Book and magazine chain WH Smith scrapped a planned midnight launch at King’s Cross Station, from whose fictional Platform 9 3/4 Harry catches the train to Hogwarts at the start of each term. The deadliest of the day’s four attacks was on a subway near King’s Cross.

“We’re very much of the message that it’s business as usual — London’s open for business and we want to celebrate this book,” said John Webb, children’s buyer at Waterstone’s, which said 300,000 people attended midnight openings at more than 100 stores across Britain.

Since Rowling introduced Harry and his fellow students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the world in 1997, the books have become a global phenomenon, selling 270 million copies in 62 languages and inspiring a series of movies. Rowling is now the richest woman in Britain, with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $1 billion.

With only brief interruptions, “Half-Blood Prince” has topped the charts of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com since last December, when Rowling announced that she had completed it. Pre-orders worldwide already are in the millions and other Potter products are selling strongly, including the audio book, a “deluxe” edition of “Half-Blood Prince” and a box set of the previous five books.

Publication has sparked a price war in England, with many chains selling the book for about half the $29.95 cover price. In the United States, the online retailer Alibris.com is offering $5, plus postage, for used copies. Scholastic Inc., Rowling’s U.S. publisher, has also joined the competition, offering a 20 percent discount on its Web site.

Scholastic is releasing more than 10 million copies. Waterstone’s predicts two million copies will be sold in Britain, where Bloomsbury publishes the book, and 10 million worldwide in the first 24 hours. (AP)

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