Children from around the world, invited
Adrian Dennis  /  AFP - Getty Images
Children from around the world, invited as cub reporters, prepare to enter Edinburgh Castle for the worldwide launch of the latest book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at Edinburgh Castle 15 July 2005. Thousands of fans queued to see the events culminating with the author, J.K. Rowling arriving at the launch to give a reading to 70 children, cub reporters, inside the castle.
By Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 7/15/2005 10:41:51 PM ET 2005-07-16T02:41:51

NEW YORK CITY— In London, the Potter party has already begun. Just hours ago, “Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince,” the sixth book in the wildly successful series, went on sale.

On Friday night in Scotland, some of Harry Potter’s most faithful fans got to hear what happens. The author, J.K. Rowling, gave the very first reading of “The Half-Blood Prince” at Edinburgh Castle.

On this side of the pond, fans just have to wait till midnight.

10-year old Rachel Purdom, like many young readers, is a self-proclaimed expert on all things Harry Potter. “I’ve read each book 10 times now except the fourth one, which I’ve read 11 times,” she says. Friday night is a big night for Purdom, who is going to be at one of many Harry Potter book store parties.

Purdom plans on staying up way past her bedtime to get a copy. “I’m going to drink lots of caffeine and not let myself fall asleep while reading it,” she says.

Book parties nationwide
Purdom will not be alone. More than 5,000 parties nationwide will almost simultaneously celebrate what is being called the largest book launch in history. Nearly 11 million copies of the book have been printed, and fans of the boy wizard are ready to ring in his return.

“It’s the New Years Eve for children,” says Barbara Marcus, the executive vice president of Scholastic Books, the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter series.  “There are countdowns happening across America. The awareness is quite heightened.”

Barnes and Noble has events planned in nearly 700 of its stores and CEO Steve Riggio, says people are more wild about Harry than ever before.

“In its first week of sales, it will outgross any Hollywood movie that opens that weekend,” says Riggio. “We will sell 50,000 copies per hour of this book in the first 24 hours.”

Riggio has reason to be optimistic: The Potter franchise has already sold more than 270 million copies. In fact, if each book sold were lined up end to end, they would circle the equator almost twice.

Two years of anticipation
Harry Potter and his magical adventures have cast a spell over readers young and old. Two years have passed since the release of book five, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fastest-selling hardback in history. 

Aspiring wizards and witches had to make do with events like a "potions class," one of a week-long series of activities hosted by the Scholastic Store in New York City.

In midtown Manhattan, the Affinia 50 hotel is preparing to welcome “The Half-Blood Prince” its own way—  with a special package that includes an exclusive Hogwarts party and personal delivery of the new book by the hotel’s resident wizard, a.k.a. General Manager Vic Freeman.

“There is a tremendous amount of buzz going on with the new book about to come out and we were looking at a way to enhance something for our guests,” says Freeman. “How can we make the book available with out having our guests stand in these lines that are so tedious? We thought we could do something fun and also help them get the books right away.”

Divining what's in store
There are many predictions for what author J.K. Rowling has in store for us in book six. 

“She [Rowling] said that someone’s gonna die,” says Alia, another avid fan. “So I think it’s going be Ron.”

“I think Dumbledore is going to die because he’s Harry’s mentor,” says Ben.

“I would like to know how Harry is going to defeat Voldemort because there are just so many different possibilities. You really have no clue at all what’s going to happen,” says Purdom. “I’m just really super excited. I can’t put it into words.”

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