‘Harry Potter’ launch shrouded in secrecy

The latest instalment from the “Harry Potter” series will go on sale here at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, but the launch—like the book itself—is shrouded in mystery.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth book in the internationally best-selling series, will be available at Betty’s—but that’s about all that can be reported.
“I had to sign an agreement—I can’t say,” Betty’s co-owner Blair Anderson said when asked how many copies of the book he had ordered.
It’s even forbidden to take pictures of the boxes of books when they arrive, likely Friday afternoon.
“It’s like Christmas,” Anderson noted.
Those determined to get one of the first copies can go down to Betty’s and have their name added to the list to reserve a copy.
The book cannot legally be sold until 12:01 a.m. on July 16, but a grocery store in Coquitlam, B.C. inadvertently stocked the book on its shelves last Thursday.
Fourteen books were sold before management realized the mistake.
As a result, the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the 14 lucky people who snagged the book not to talk about it, copy it, sell it, or even read it before the official launch.
In fact, the court further ordered them to return their copies to the publisher until the official release, when the books would be returned to them.
Rainycoast Book Distribution Ltd. also promised autographs from author J.K. Rowling and a gift pack for those who comply.
Harry Potter-mania certainly has not been limited to this latest book.
When “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was released in June, 2003, Betty’s also began selling the books just after midnight. About 100 people showed up for the launch—and nearly all 300 copies ordered were sold by the next day.
The store underwent a magical transformation, decorated to resemble Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, complete with a life-sized mannequin of Dumbledore, the school’s headmaster.
Once all customers left by about 1:30 a.m., staff were careful to remove all decorations before going home “so that you’d never know they had been there.”
“Those that came out at midnight saw something extra special,” Anderson said, recalling the line-up stretched from Betty’s all the way down to Sight & Sound.
Anderson said the store will be decorated again this time, but he would not elaborate.
“There will be something, but that’s another magical type of surprise,” he said cryptically.