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Fans go Potty for Harry

PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

POTTERMANIA descended on Britain today with thousands of copies of the new Harry Potter book being snapped up by people of all ages.

Cash tills started ringing at the stroke of midnight as the hugely hyped book

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was finally available to buy.

POTTERMANIA descended on Britain today with thousands of copies of the new Harry Potter book being snapped up by people of all ages.

Cash tills started ringing at the stroke of midnight as the hugely hyped book

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was finally available to buy.

At the Tesco superstore at Copdock Mill, Ipswich the 150-strong queue was mainly made up of parents buying the books for wannabe Harry and Hermiones tucked up in bed.

Although a good few grown ups were as eager to get their mitts on the eagerly awaited fifth book in the series having waited three years since the previous instalment Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The book – with a recommended retail price of £16.99 – was available at £9.97 at Tesco, who were confident the 1,760 copies they had on display at midnight would soon be sold.

One of the youngest fans to land the book was ten-year-old Robert Graver from Shotley Gate who won a copy signed by J.K Rowling in the Evening Star's competition.

We had dozens of entries but a thrilled Shotley school pupil Robert, of Lloyd Road, Shotley was the winner and received his book from Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover and Tesco store manager Adie Fleude.

Robert said: "I've ordered it and was due to arrive this morning but I'll be giving that copy to my Dad. I've got all the books and love reading them – my favourite characters are Harry and Ron."

His father Martin thought it was great that children as young as ten were so keen to read and didn't think the dark content of the books was unsuitable for them.

He said: "The books are good for children's education – I've got no problem reading them. We'll probably put the signed copy away and read the other copy – we'll just have to put two bookmarks in it!"

As the clocks neared midnight the crowds as Tesco grew under the watchful eye of security guard Lee Saunders, keen to ensure the strict June 21 embargo on the book remained.

He said: "We had a few people in at 11.15pm and by 11.30pm there was quite a crowd. Most people seem to be buying two copies of the book – one to keep and one to read."

Tesco employee Andy Cheesman had a special reason for getting an early copy of the book – and it may have involved an expensive phone call.

He said: "I'm buying the book and then I'm going to phone my brother in New York and start reading it to him. It's on sale there at midnight but that's 5am our time so I've got a few hours to read it to him!

"It's amazing to see so many people here, although I think it's going to be the least valuable first edition in history."

Fast forward eight hours and more shoppers were out in force in Ipswich town centre to get the book.

Dad Ashley Cook of Humber Doucy Lane, Ipswich purchased the book from Waterstones at 8am with his children Amy, 10 and Elliot, 8.

He said: "We actually finished reading the last chapter of Goblet of Fire last night so they're looking forward to getting started on this one.

"We've been reading a chapter of the book each night so we could finish it – I just hope they don't find out too much about the plot at school."

Staff at WHSmith in Ipswich said they had sold around 140 copies by 8am, having opened at midnight and again at 7.30am today.

Waterstone's also opened more than 100 branches across Britain on the stroke of midnight to cope with the demand.

In Edinburgh, millionaire author JK Rowling signed copies of her book for children who excitedly queued up ahead of the launch at Waterstone's.

"When Goblet of Fire was published I was desperate to go into a bookshop at midnight and see children's reactions, so this time I'm really pleased I could," she said.

"Much of the pleasure of being published for me is meeting the children who are reading the books.''

The new book has already broken Internet sales records, with more than one million advance orders received by online retailer Amazon worldwide, including more than 350,000 in the UK.

Amazon believes delivery of the new book is set to be the largest distribution of any single item in e-commerce history.

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