By Mitch Traphagen
BRANDON - It was a dark and stormy night. Fortunately for author J.K. Rowling, the fifth book in her Harry Potter series, the Order of the Phoenix, does not begin that way.
It was, however, dark and it was at least drizzling on June 20 as nearly 1,500 people attended a kickoff celebration for the long awaited book at the Barnes and Noble book store in Brandon.
"We had a party on Friday night and things went great," said Barnes and Noble community relations manager Michelle LaBarge. "We had between 1,200 and 1,500 people in the store and everyone that pre-ordered was able to get a book. Around 300 people didn’t get one but they just came for the party."
The party was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. lasting until just after midnight when the sale of the books was allowed to begin.
Harry Potter fans, however, began arriving around 5 p.m. Tickets providing a book reservation were still available until just before the party began.
The event included magicians, costume contests, trivia contests and a scavenger hunt to entertain as the hours crept past bedtime for most of the children and their parents. "The kids were all excited and wide awake through the night," said LaBarge. "Everyone seemed to have a great time, there was not a single complaint."
Nationally Barnes and Noble reported selling nearly 900,000 books on the first day of sales, selling 286,000 books in just 60 minutes. That equates to roughly 80 books sold per second.
Borders Book Stores reported selling 750,000 copies and hosting nearly a half a million customers during late night parties at 415 of their 1,200 stores.
For both Borders and Barnes and Noble, those figures represented the highest first day sales of any title in either company’s history.
Nearly 1.3 million copies were pre-ordered worldwide through internet retailer Amazon.com. Amazon teamed up with Federal Express and the U.S. Postal Service to provide complimentary Saturday delivery to customers who had pre-ordered by June 17. That meant those customers received the book on the day it was released.
According to Amazon, the number of books ordered through them, if placed end to end, would stretch for 112 miles.
The book’s publisher, Scholastic Corporation, began planning for the event many months ago. Nearly 8.5 million copies of the book were printed and available on the release date.
It has been nearly three years since the last book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released. For many fans, the only wait now is to reach the end of the 870 page, 255,000 word book.