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The Rediff Special/Arthur J Pais
June 20, 2003
The big new sci-fi movie The Hulk would be expecting huge lines for the midnight shows on June 21. But not all the big lines in Manhattan that night would be for Ang Lee's new movie.
In fact, many of the crowds won't be at the movie theatres. They will be at book shops where young readers and their guardians will try to snap up copies of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, J K Rowling's fifth in the series, and then party on for several hours.
For weeks, Rahul Vyas, 12, has been reminding his parents -- like thousands of children across America -- to make sure one of them will be in Manhattan, along with him and sister Ria to get the latest 896-page Harry Potter tome. It has been three years since the previous Harry Potter book was released -- and the wait has been too long. Rahul could have asked his parents to order the book for home delivery on Saturday but he wants to be in a bookshop with hundreds of children and their parents to share the excitement.
| Harry Potter milestones|
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone is published with an announced first printing of 50,000.
December 27, 1998
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone debuts on The New York Times bestseller list at No 16.
June 2, 1999
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets is published with an announced first printing of 250,000.
June 10, 1999
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets debuts at No 1 on the USA Today bestseller list.
June 11, 1999
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets debuts at No 1 on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
June 20, 1999
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets debuts at No 1 on The New York Times bestseller list.
September 8, 1999
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban is published with an announced first printing of 500,000.
September 16, 1999
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban debuts at No 1 on the USA Today bestseller list; The Wall Street Journal reports it is one of the most successful book launches in history.
September 17, 1999
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban debuts at No 1 on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone occupy the No 2 and No 3 slots.
September 26, 1999
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban debuts at No 1 on The New York Times bestseller list. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone occupy the No 2 and No 3 positions.
July 8, 2000
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire is published with a record-breaking initial print-run of 3.8 million.
Source: Scholastic Books
Three young kids in my Harrison, New Jersey, apartment building have decided to spend June 21 with their cousins in Manhattan because they want to buy the book. One of them has even persuaded her parents not to plan an outing around that date because she does not want to miss the book's launch.
In many homes across America (not to forget other countries) domestic peace will be severely challenged when siblings fight over the book. In many homes, adults would also join in the fight. For, as the previous Harry Potter books have proved, their magic is not confined to just young readers.
Like millions of readers across the world, Rahul too will begin reading the first lines in Rowling's book:
The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive… The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four.
And later: Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses. 'It is time,' he said 'for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything.
Meanwhile, booksellers across America are wondering how big the new book will be. Will it beat the 2000 record when the fourth Potter book, Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire, sold three million copies in its first weekend?
Publisher Scholastic is sending an unprecedented 6.8 million copies of the new tome across the country and has prepared to send an additional 1.7 million in the second shipment. Calling it an all-time United States publishing record, Barbara Marcus, president of Scholastic Children's Books, said: 'The demand at retail and pre-orders by customers for the new Harry Potter book have been absolutely phenomenal. With this level of anticipation for Rowling's masterful new adventure, we want to make sure all Harry Potter fans can get their copies on June 21.'
The book, which will be sold by many stores at 40 per cent off the jacket price of $29.99, will be available from 12.01 am on Saturday at many locations in Manhattan.
Amazon.com, which is guaranteeing the delivery of the book on Saturday, is also offering about 30 per cent off the jacket price. Also offered at a special rate is the $60 deluxe edition with a full-case cloth cover with gold embossing, which is being sold in a special slip box.
The fourth Harry Potter saga ended with Albus Dumbledore thinking loud at Hogwarts:
I say to you all, once again -- in the light of Lord Voldemort's return -- we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust.
But as Harry begins his fifth year at wizard school, it seems those bonds have never been put to a more severe test. Lord Voldemort's rise has caused turmoil and angst in the wizarding world between those who believe in him, and those who are convinced his role is all madness and lies.
Harry has to deal with not only the new turmoil but also with a new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey and a venomous, disgruntled house-elf.
At night, Harry's fears and challenges become even worse because he constantly dreams of a single door in a silent corridor.
In the newest instalment of Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter triumphs when he finds strength and inspiration in his friends and learns new lessons about loyalty, integrity and sacrifice.
The new book has 255,000 words, 38 chapters and approximately 896 pages, compared to the previous Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire that had over 191,000 words, 37 chapters and 752 pages in hardcover.
When Scholastic released Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire in July 2000, it became the fastest-selling book in history. Within 48 hours three million copies were sold and Scholastic went back to press for an additional three million immediately. It has sold over 16 million copies in hardcover and paperback. All four Harry Potter books published by Scholastic in the United States in hardcover and paperback have sold a total of nearly 80 million copies since September 1998, when the company first released Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. At least 100 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide, translated into over 40 languages. The two Harry Potter movies have grossed about $3.8 billion in theatrical sales, and from video, DVD, tie-in sales worldwide.
While looking forward to party games on June 21, many Harry Potter diehards are also entering the Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix national contest. Ten winners and their chaperones will be guests of Scholastic for an all-expense paid trip to London, England, to hear Rowling answer questions and read from her new novel.
The contestants have to write a 300 word essay answering the question 'If you could have one special power taught at Hogwarts, what would it be and why?' Entries are limited to US residents who are not older than 18 as of May 21. 'Deeper Secrets, Darker Powers, Stronger Magic' is the theme of Scholastic's campaign for the new novel.
Among its multimillion dollar promotion for the book, Scholastic has partnered with four major league baseball teams to sponsor Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix days at the following games: Seattle Mariners vs San Diego Padres on June 27; Baltimore Orioles vs Yankees on July 2; Oakland A's vs Anaheim Angels on July 6; and Houston Astros vs Pittsburgh Pirates on July 12. Each team has crafted promotions including players dressed up in Harry Potter outfits. Over 55,000 bookmarks will be given away to fans.
For the next week's millions will respond to the questions posed by the publishers: 'Is Harry ready? Are you?"'
But despite all the hype, advertisement and promotion, it will be left to readers like Rahul to determine if the book is finally worth the price and attention.
Image: Rahil Shaikh
EXTERNAL LINK: An interview with J K Rowling