Magic book flies off shelves

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The waiting was over.

At the stroke of midnight, heralding in the new day Saturday, they just went crazy.

Some with thick, round glasses, others with lightning bolts on their foreheads and still more with wizard hats, Harry Potter fans were now able to get their hands on the most highly anticipated book in the history of publishing — “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

At Barnes and Noble in Bay Terrace, the line was at least 1,000 strong. At 11:45 p.m. Friday the line outside stretched to the corner, around back, by the pool and kept going.

Inside, a line the depth of the store had formed early in the day, with a pair of kids who had arrived at 4 p.m. staking claim to be the first Harry and Hermione on line.

Harry Potter is the young boy wizard who, inducted into the world of magic at a young age thanks to his friends at Hogwart’s Academy, has had four prior adventures with his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

In the fifth installment, which had an initial printing of 8.5 million in the United States alone, new characters are introduced, one old friend dies and Harry’s life, yet again, takes a series of unusual turns.

But asking 7-year-olds Erin Norris and Alexander Romaine, both of Bayside, what they think would happen, a flurry of answer came flying out.

“I had read in the newspaper that a character dies, but I don’t know which one,” Norris, who was dressed as her heroine Hermione said.

“But I think it might be Dumbledore,” Romaine chimed in, speaking of the aging wizard portrayed in the first two Harry Potter films by the late Richard Harris.

Norris countered that thought, saying she thought it couldn’t be Dumbledore because her drank a magic elixir that keeps him alive in his old age. She thought it might be the gruff Hagrid.

Both Norris, who wore glasses like Hermione and Romaine, whose costume glasses matched his Potter-esque cloak, are avid readers, not only of the series by British author J.K. Rowling but all branches of fiction and fantasy.

Of course Rowling’s characters are, by far, their favorite.

“I’ve read each of the books 100 times,” Norris said as she beamed with excitement after the store’s publicity manager, Tony Gangi, announced the five-minute mark had arrived in the countdown.

“I’m going to read five times tonight,” Romaine said, though his mother seemed to think that after he got through the first few pages he’d probably fall asleep with the book cradled in his arms.

The book has been selling faster than industry experts had even predicted. The CEO of Barnes & Noble was quoted by CNN as saying that the company expected to sell 1 million copies of the 870-page tome in the first week. They sold that many in the first 48 hours.

Amazon shipped 1 million copies on the first day alone, setting an Internet record for the largest distribution of a single item in the history of e-commerce.

Children were not the only ones lined up at Barnes & Noble Friday night. One 30-year-old woman said she had been waiting since 4:30 p.m., has all the other books, and thinks that Rowling’s writing style is simple enough for young readers to understand and compelling enough to keep the most discerning adults enraptured.

As the throngs of Potter fans eagerly awaited their turn in line to pick up their copies of the latest book, there was, unbeknownst to many, a second dealer who had set up shop at Bay Terrace.

Waldbaum’s, which among the grocery and produce aisle keeps books and magazines, also started selling the book at midnight to a line of only about 60. A magical feat, indeed.

Posted 7:13 pm, October 10, 2011
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