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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Harry Potter casts spell on US
Harry Potter
One young US reader has beaten the crowds to a copy of the new Potter book
Interest in the new Harry Potter novel in the US is matching that in the UK - with record orders through one online bookseller.

Advance copies of the new Harry Potter book ordered through online retailer Amazon.com are soaring by 10,000 a day.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has sold nearly 300,000 copies on the website, setting a new record for the site.

The book, the fourth in JK Rowling's phenomenally successful children's series which has sold 35 million copies worldwide, goes on sale this weekend.

But anticipation among the millions of devotees of the schoolboy wizard has kept Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the top of Amazon's best-seller list for 16 of the past 21 weeks.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling says some children may find parts of the new story upsetting

The book is also said to be the best-seller on Amazon's UK site, although the company has been unable to verify its figures.

The number of advance orders means that the fourth Potter adventure has beaten Amazon's biggest previous advance sale of 43,000 copies for John Grisham's The Brethren.

An unprecedented 5.3 million copies of the Goblet of Fire will be released on Saturday in the United States and Britain.

For other children's books, 500,000 is considered a large first print-run.

Bookstores in both the US are planning special events and late openings to mark the launch, matching their UK counterparts.

"There's nothing you could compare this to," said Linda Wilkinson, manager of Adventures of Kids, a bookstore in Ventura, California.

"We've been planning this for months now, and we're getting close to the countdown."

Evil

As with Rowling's previous Potter books, a wall of secrecy has guarded the plot, heightening fans' anticipation.

However, several lucky readers have been given surprise advance knowledge of its contents after a Wal-Mart store in Virginia broke the embargo and put copies out on its shelves.

A Wal-Mart spokesman said around 20 copies were sold before the books were removed, although the mistake was repeated at another US store.


Harry Potter
The UK cover before the title of of the new book was revealed

The Potter books tell the story of orphan Harry Potter who discovers on his 11th birthday that he has inherited magical powers from his parents.

Life is never the same again for him and his friends as they get caught up in magical mysteries and battle evil enemies.

But it's not all innocent fun in the way of many past children's bestsellers.

The Goblet of Fire is said to include murder for the first time and, as with most teenage boys, Harry's interest in girls begins to feature more and more.

Rowling, who last year earned 14.5m in royalties, advances and movie rights and was recently made an OBE, says she thinks some children may find parts of her new story upsetting but not damaging.

Another turn-off however could be the book's length.

Running to 600 pages - 752 in the US with a different cover and illustrations - the Goblet of Fire is longer than the first three.

Despite the pre-release hype, the new book may not ultimately prove as popular as its predecessors.

Diane Roback of Publishers Weekly said she thought the very young and uninitiated in the US could find the length off-putting.

But she added that older children are unlikely to be deterred, particularly if they are already hooked on Harry.

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