It's not magic that has books disappearing from the shelves of local bookstores and libraries. Rather, fans are once again going wild for Hogwort's boy wizard Harry Potter.
There is no doubting the power possessed by the series of books. Since first introduced in 1997, the books have become a global phenomenon, selling more than 270 million copies in 62 languages and inspiring a series of movies.
J.K. Rowling's newest book the sixth in the series of seven is titled "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," and the release was again shrouded in secrecy.
The book was not to be sold by distributors until 12:01 a.m. Saturday, all part of an effort to enable readers and reviewers alike to read it at the same time.
Much to the delight of fans who have waited more than two years since Potter's last adventure, River City Books in Soldotna stayed open late to throw a Potter Party to celebrate the release of the 672-page book chronicling the continuing battling of Potter against the master of the dark arts the evil Lord Voldemort.
"It's wild. Nothing else we do throughout the year compares to it," said Peggy Mullen, the book store's owner.
For the bash, the store had a variety of puzzles, games and activities all Harry Potter related, of course for customers to enjoy.
There were even Potter-themed snacks available, such as butter beer an ice cream float and edible magic wands made of a pretzel stick dipped in chocolate and sprinkles.
Lines of die-hard fans of the series began lining up in front of the book store around 11 p.m., but having thrown similar parties for past Potter releases, Mullen said she knew what to expect and was ready for the more than 200 people who attended.
"We ordered bunches of books more than ever," Mullen said, adding she had received between 300 and 400 preregistration orders prior to the event.
Sales of the book continued in the morning as a line of people were again waiting when the book store opened.
The situation was much the same at Fred Meyer in Soldotna, when the book became available at 6 a.m. Saturday.
"They've been under lock and key all week. Only myself and the store security manager had a key," said Ron Delaney, store director.
Delaney took the task of guarding the books very seriously, as any book sold intentionally or accidentally prior to the release date could result in a lawsuit.
Such was the case in Canada last week when lawyers conjured up a court order to stop details from the book being revealed after several copies were sold by accident.
No such problems occurred at Fred Meyer or anywhere else on the central Kenai Peninsula. And from the store opening Saturday on, the books went like hotcakes.
"There's a huge interest. People have been calling daily asking about the book," Delaney said, adding that he wouldn't be surprised if the store sold out of the book quickly. By 8 a.m., feverish sales made Delaney's prognostication look like it would come true.
Mike Dodds of Wasilla and his sons Evan, 12, and Carson, 8, were among the early bird shoppers.
"We came down to dipnet. We tried to get one in Wasilla, but none of the stores were open when we left at 5 a.m.," Dodds said.
He said his sons had to have the book, so they stopped in for a spell.
"I really like the books. I've read them all," Evan Dodds said.
The Potter series isn't just appealing to children, though, as was evident by the numerous adult shoppers.
"I came specifically for the book," said Juanita Barbour of Soldotna. She said she's waited for the release of this sixth book since finishing the fifth in the series.
"Everyone in my family reads them over and over. It's great. They've gotten better with each one," Barbour said.
Those not wanting to pay for the Potter book or who got there too late may attempt to get a copy through a library.
"We'll have three copies total and the first has arrived," said Linda McNair, assistant to the director of the Kenai Community Library. The other copies are ordered and on the way.
The library has had numerous requests to reserve the book, which McNair said was one the exciting aspect of the series.
"I gets people reading. This will revive all the other Harry Potter books and children too young to remember the books from three or four years ago will get into it and start at the beginning to get to the new book," she said.
The story was much the same with the staff at the Soldotna Public Library.
"We have eight copies ordered, and lots of requests for them already," said Terri Burdick, assistant librarian.
As a fan herself along with the library director she said two copies are already spoken for.
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