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The whole world is wild about Harry

(Page 2 of 2)

When the book came out in January in Israel, Daisy Maryles, executive editor of Publishers Weekly, was there. She bought it in Hebrew for her cousin's son, who read it in one sitting and declared, "I'm going to have to start to read it in English because I can't wait" for the next one. It's due to be published just before Christmas in Russian, and next year in China.

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Inroads in India

In some countries, the book arrives in English - just delayed. In India, where the fourth volume is expected on July 15, the books have been available since last fall, but only in the past two months has the word really spread.

"They are selling like anything. They are making publishing history. Parents buy them for kids. Kids buy them. And parents buy them for parents," says Balraj Bahri, whose store in Delhi's Khan Market has sold more than 200 copies since March.

S. Arora, owner of Teksons Bookshop in Delhi's South Extension mall, started stocking Potter in November and by March had sold more than 3,000 copies. The hardcover of the third volume cost 595 rupees (about $13.30) - a price high by Indian standards, but the books sold out.

Nine-year old Tara borrowed the first book from a friend, then bought the next two. Her mother, Ann, says the books have "become a family obsession." They all read them, staying up all weekend for the first volume, "since we had to return it on a Sunday night."

Meanwhile, booksellers from Vancouver to Dallas to Edinburgh, Scotland, who are not allowed to sell the book before the stroke of midnight on Friday night, are mining a wealth of party possibilities. Some are turning stores into replicas of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which Harry attends.

Demand is expected to break publishing records, with more than 5 million copies released in English-speaking countries on July 8. One million of those will be printed in Britain and another 3.8 million in the US - roughly twice the number that megaselling writers such as John Grisham and Tom Clancy receive. "Grisham beats Clancy, and Rowling beats everybody," says Ms. Maryles. The release of the fourth Potter book is "the largest launch book publishing has had."

Though debate rages among critics in Britain about whether Harry Potter can be called Literature (some noses are still out of joint that it was up for a prestigious book prize this year), observers say Rowling's storytelling abilities give her books universal appeal. "It's not dependent on being in the original language. To me, the charm is in the depth of the storytelling," says Devereaux.

The latest book will be longer than its predecessors - more than 700 pages in the US version (which will have more pictures) and more than 600 in the British edition. "It really does remain to be seen whether this longer length is going to put kids off," says Diane Roback, children's book editor at Publishers Weekly.

Tom Jackson, an eight-year-old from Limerick, Ireland, isn't dismayed.

If the book "has twice the pages" he reasons, "it will probably be much better."

*Staff writers Ilene R. Prusher in Tokyo, Robert Marquand in New Delhi, and correspondent Yasue Aoi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society