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Festivities for the new book began with the midnight premiere in London.



Published: Sat, July 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Festivities for the new book began with the midnight premiere in London.

LONDON (AP) -- At last! Faster than a turbo-powered broomstick, Harry Potter is flying off the shelves.

Bookstores across Britain flung open their doors at a minute past midnight Saturday, London time, to admit hordes of would-be witches, warlocks and ordinary muggles -- Potter-speak for non-magical humans.

All were eager to get their hands on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the latest volume of the boy wizard's adventures. Shops as far afield as Singapore and Australia put the 600-plus page book on sale at the same time.

"I'm going to read it all at once. I don't think I could stop once I got started," said Katrine Skovgaard, 18, who traveled from Denmark and waited in line for six hours before collecting her copy at a central London bookstore.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, author J.K. Rowling emerged from behind a secret panel inside the city's medieval castle to read an excerpt from the sixth chapter to a super-select group of 70 children from around the world.

Questions answered

Millions of Harry's fans can now solve the mysteries that have been teasingly hinted at by Rowling for months: Will Harry's teenage friends Ron and Hermione find romance? Which major character will die? Who is the half-blood prince?

"You get a lot of answers in this book," Rowling, a resident of Edinburgh, said as she arrived at the castle. "I can't wait for everyone to read it." 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 copy of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Thousands of people in London were expected amid heightened security in the wake of last week's terrorists bombings.

"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 bookseller Waterstone's.




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