Sunday, June 15, 2003

Bookstores open to the idea of Pottermania


^6 days to go: The fifth book in the Potter series will be released on Saturday. Here are some numerical tidbits from the saga.

By Mandy Jenkins
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Tristate is braced for another British invasion, and this one might be bigger than the Beatles.

The bespectacled boy wizard is certain to overtake bookstores and libraries when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the wildly popular series, is released on Saturday.

"This has got to be one of the most anticipated books in history," said John Hutton, owner of Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore in Oakley.

If preorders are an indication, it is. Online retailer Amazon has logged more than 1 million preorders worldwide, a record for a new product release.

Some stores are planning midnight release parties for serious fans who can't wait until morning to pay $29.99 for the 896-page book.

"We're going to have refreshments, a costume contest, some trivia games, some giveaways - it's going to be a lot of fun," said Annette Meurer, marketing manager of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Norwood. "Then, at 12:01, the book will be available for sale."

Many of those showing up that night will likely be picking up their preorders. Joseph-Beth has about 400 books sold with an extra 50-60 on reserve.

Although the store ordered 2,050 copies, Meurer said if past first-day sales were any indication, all of those might sell the first day.

Joseph-Beth had more than 1,500 people turn out for the 2000 release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

"(Last time) they all showed up ahead of time to be the first in line, we were full," Meurer said. "People came in costumes, families, groups of adults - it was definitely a party."

The Barnes & Noble at Newport on the Levee also expects a crowd for its late-night party, the store's first venture into Potter mania.

"We weren't even here when the last book came out, but it was the biggest sale and literary event for the company that year," said Linda Keller, community relations manager. The store has more than 400 preorders. "I'm certain this is the most preorders we've ever had."

"Midnight magic" will begin at 11 p.m.and include door prizes, a magician and activity stations.

"Given the entertainment demographics that the Levee has, it should be very interesting down here that evening," Keller said, chuckling.

The smaller Blue Manatee will be host to its first midnight party under new ownership. Hutton, who read the first four Harry Potter books with his daughter, plans "classes" like those at Hogwart's school, the wizarding academy where Harry is a student, withinstruction in magic tricks, potion making and cooking of magical treats.

At 10 p.m., kids will be "sorted" into four teams for the four houses in the book: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Hufflepuff to participate in Harry Potter trivia.

"We will have four rounds corresponding to each of the four books," Hutton explained. "It will make sure everyone remembers their facts leading up to the fifth book."

Open for breakfast

Those who don't want to keep the little ones up late can get up early for some Potter fun.

Blue Manatee will open at 7 a.m. with an English breakfast.

The Blue Marble, a children's bookstore in Fort Thomas, goes a step further with a Potterlike "breakfast in the garden" of strawberries, scones and clotted cream from 6-10 a.m.

"We decided to not open at midnight the night before like we did last time because we are in a residential neighborhood," owner Tina Moore said. "Our party is kind of low key, but there's something going on all day Saturday."

Libraries have readings and activities scheduled for Saturday. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will have 957 books and 197 audio books to lend. Spokesman Rick Helmes says more than 750 of those are already on reserve.

"It will be first come, first serve on all of the rest," Helmes said. "Realistically, when it is released, most of the copies will already be checked out in the first couple of days."

Brentano's bookstore at Tower Place is opening at 7 a.m. Saturday to accommodate downtown shoppers. Manager Bill Carl said the store will give customers some Harry Potter freebies and have a live reading of the new book by staff members from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

"We're going to start at the beginning of the book and see how far we can get in that time," Carl said. "I don't think we'll get through all 900 pages in one day."

'Phoenix' shrouded in secrecy

Its length - 162 more pages than book four - is one of few details bookstore owners know about the new novel. Author J.K. Rowling and American publisher Scholastic Inc. are keeping the book under tight wraps until its debut.

"J.K. Rowling wants everyone to receive the book at the same time," said Scholastic spokesperson Melissa Klepack. "Reviewers don't get it early and it goes on sale everywhere at the same time. She wants it to be fair."

Most bookstores will receive the books one or two days before the release date and may not open the boxes or show them to anyone before midnight on June 21.

"We had to fill out five or six sets of forms promising not to show anybody the book," Hutton said. "I don't know what they'd do, but we would get in worlds of trouble if we let anyone see the books before midnight."

Hutton said his staff, self-described Harry Potter fanatics, will be jockeying to see who gets to be first to open the boxes.

Keller said Barnes & Noble employees are also catching onto the madness.

"Like everyone else, we're anxiously awaiting being able to cut those boxes open," Keller laughed. "I guess when they call it Harry Potter Mania, they probably have a pretty good reason."

E-mail mjenkins@enquirer.com



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