- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — When planning the family vacation to Manhattan, Peter Ahrensdorf knew there was one can’t-miss stop for his kids — and it wasn’t the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty.

Mr. Ahrensdorf, his wife and their two children arrived early yesterday at the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue, where they picked up their eagerly anticipated copy of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

It was a ritual repeated across the country and around the world. Like magic, crazed Potter fans appeared at bookstores and malls — thousands upon thousands ready to plunk down $29.99 for the latest (and longest) installment of the boy wizard’s adventures after a three-year wait.

“It was so fun to do this,” said Virginia Reames of Raymond, Miss., the first buyer at a Jackson, Miss., bookstore. “It was just … just delicious.”

Scholastic Inc., U.S. publisher of the Potter books, said yesterday it was too soon to know exactly how many copies had been sold. The book was already No. 1 on Amazon.com; it had an initial U.S. printing of 8.5 million.

But fans were so wild about Harry that some stores, including a Barnes & Noble in Philadelphia, reported the book had sold out.

Cover to Cover Bookstore in Columbus, Ohio, quickly sold out its 20 available copies. Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore had only eight copies left out of more than 300. A Barnes & Noble in northeast Detroit sold out its allotment shortly after putting the book on sale a little after midnight.

The first copy went to Jessica DeDeckere, 17, of Royal Oak, Mich., who had reserved it on Jan. 15.

Jessica, in a black witch’s hat and cloak, explained her obsession with the books: “They just suck you in. You get so absorbed.”

In Manhattan, Mr. Ahrensdorf explained how he had called from North Carolina to reserve his family’s book. Nearby, his 8-year-old daughter, Lucia, clutched her precious copy of the 870-page saga, the fifth in J.K. Rowling’s series.

“My daughter was heartbroken that she had to wait until this morning,” said Mr. Ahrensdorf, a college professor. The books — English-language editions only — officially went on sale at 7:01 p.m. EDT Friday in London, with simultaneous launches elsewhere in the world. It made its debut here at 12:01 a.m. yesterday and continued to be released across the country at 12:01 a.m. in each time zone.

Hundreds of stores stayed open late to accommodate the crush. Many held costume parties to celebrate the book’s publication.

Lucia and her 5-year-old brother, Matias, each sported a pair of Harry’s trademark black glasses. Others waiting for books at stores here and throughout the world wore imitations of Harry’s lightning-bolt scar, dressed in wizard’s garb or came as other characters, such as Hermione or Hagrid.

Eager readers dove right into Chapter 1, cracking the book open right outside stores or reading it by the dome lights of their parents’ cars.

At Octavia Books in New Orleans, the books were covered by a black cloak until 12:01 a.m. — when clerks dressed as Hogwarts professors began selling the fifth installment of the seven-part series.

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