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New Potter book topples U.S. sales records

The new Harry Potter book sold an astonishing 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours, smashing the record held by the previous Potter release. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" averaged better than 250,000 sales per hour, more than the vast majority of books sell in a lifetime.
Lola Lorber, 14, wears a wizard's hat while reading "Jane Eyre" as she waits in the prepaid line to pick up her copy of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" at Books of Wonder bookstore in New York on Friday.Tina Fineberg / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Harry Potter is a record breaker on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, sold about 9 million copies in Britain and the United States in its first 24 hours. The only book in publishing history to open nearly as well was Rowling’s previous book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

“Typically, a good book will take about four to six months to go gold and very few books reach platinum in their first year of publication. ’Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ achieved platinum in less than one day!” said Richard Knight, the managing director of Nielsen BookScan, which Monday reported just over 2 million sales in Britain.

British sales of “Half-Blood Prince” were 13 percent higher than for the first 24 hours of “Order of the Phoenix.”

In the United States, the new Harry Potter sold 6.9 million copies in its first day — averaging better than 250,000 sales per hour and easily outpacing the debut of “Order of the Phoenix,” which came out in 2003 and sold 5 million copies.

Acknowledging that some stores quickly ran out of books two years ago, the U.S. publisher, Scholastic Children’s Books, has already increased the print run for “Half-Blood Prince” from 10.8 million copies to 13.5 million.

“We want to make sure stores have enough copies this time,” Scholastic president Lisa Holton said.

Audiobook sales were also record breaking, with more than 165,000 copies sold the first weekend. Audio sales were 20 percent higher than the launch of “Order of the Phoenix,” according to Random House, Inc.’s Listening Library. Narrated by Grammy winner Jim Dale, the audiobook runs 19 hours, filling 18 CDS or 12 cassettes, with a cost of $50 for the cassettes and $75 for the CDs.

A range of Potter prices were available on the Internet, from used copies of the hardcover for $12.99 on to $992.40 for a signed first edition, available through another online seller,

Sales for the new Potter already top the combined hardcover totals for the memoirs of former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and generated more revenue last weekend, at least $100 million, than the nation’s top two movies, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Wedding Crashers.”

Unlike most blockbusters, “Half-Blood Prince” is also a hit with critics, at least in the United States, getting raves from The New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Associated Press and others. Many found it to be Rowling’s deepest, most accomplished work, with a tragic conclusion that left even reviewers in tears.

Reviews have been tougher in England. The Independent’s Suzi Feay found it “wordy, flabby and not very well edited — perhaps a bit less inventive than the previous ones.” In The Observer, literary editor Robert McCrum enjoyed the plot, but complained that “Rowling’s prose runs the gamut from torpid to pedestrian.”

One thumbs up came from the author herself. In an interview Monday on NBC’s “Today,” she acknowledged picking up a finished copy of the book and being so engaged that she had trouble putting it down.

“It’s really rather exciting,” she said. “But generally speaking ... I would never pick up one of my own books and read it.”