July 16, 2005 1:10 PM PDT

Net takes Potter fans on magical, frustrating ride

Behold the wizardry of the Web.

The very thing that helped millions of Harry Potter fans around the globe get the latest book delivered to their doorsteps Saturday is also a source of frustration for some who don't want the plot spoiled--the Internet.

In one of the most eagerly anticipated book launches ever, J.K. Rowling's just-released "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" has been breaking online sales records. Some 1.4 million readers preordered the book from Amazon.com alone, where it's been on the best-seller list since it was announced last year.

But as the post office and other delivery services are busy making good on Saturday's guaranteed shipping date, the Internet is already abuzz with reviews of the book, stories from last night's launch parties, speed-readers' plot details and complaints about postings that divulge too much information. Between 11 a.m. and noon PDT Saturday, Harry Potter was the No. 1 search term on blog search engine Technorati and "Harry Potter Spoilers" was No. 9.

Amazon customer Charles Zwilling of New Jersey marveled that there were 37 reviews up on the site early Saturday from people who must have stayed up all night reading.

"Unless you are just one of those people who has to be the first at everything or even worse, someone who likes to ruin things for others, stop writing," he wrote.

Pete Cyclone, of Washington, D.C., asked Amazon readers to boycott the reviews until Monday "in protest of spoilers."

"While free speech is important, Amazon should put a warning on this set of comments so that the rights of others are not trampled upon," he wrote. "At the very least, reviews here should be moderated for the next few days. That way I wouldn't have an inconsolable 14-year-old sister to deal with right now."

Of course, readers could always choose to simply resist going online. But that didn't keep some of the hard core Potter sites, like Mugglenet.com and the Harry Potter Automatic News Aggregator from shutting down their message boards for a couple of days before and after the launch, knowing full well that some members wouldn't be able to resist chatting about the plot.

Early online reviews of the book appeared mixed, with Harry likened to everyone from Luke Skywalker, Henry V and King Arthur, as well as evil afoot in the plot to recent bomb attacks in London. Some are calling it the darkest Potter book yet, some are calling it the best.

M.G Alcat of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was one of countless readers who just couldn't wait until daytime Saturday to curl up with the book. Alcat battled rain and cold weather to get a copy at 12:15 a.m. at a local bookstore, then went home to read, according to an Amazon posting.

"I just finished it, and I can sincerely say that it is simply outstandingly good. Yes, the other books were awesome too, especially the 4th and the 5th, but I think that Harry's world is becoming more defined with each book, and that makes for a thoroughly engaging reading experience," Alcat wrote.

The British Broadcasting Corp.'s Web site featured its own Harry Potter "review blog," with a staff member updating readers on his thoughts even before he reached the end of the hardback tome.

"I've just finished the last few words of the book," he wrote at 5.30 a.m. (4:30 GMT), five hours and 30 minutes after the book's official launch.

"In many ways this book has been a mere staging ground for Rowling's final narrative to come," the review continues. "Too much of the book was either a repeat of what we have seen before, or bogged down by Rowling's attempts to maneuver plot lines and characters into position. After a while all magic tricks begin to lose their impact."

The New York Times ran a lengthy review within hours of the book's release, likening Rowling's achievement to the works of author J.R.R. Tolkien of "Lord of the Rings."

"As the story proceeds...it grows progressively more somber, eventually becoming positively Miltonian in its darkness," the generally favorable write-up said.

Its main criticism was of Rowling's handling of plot developments needed to set up readers for the seventh and final installment.

Meanwhile, a writer for the "We Are Not Sheep" blog and her husband are probably still waiting for the UPS delivery person. She was one of many bloggers who, unable to write about the book, talked about the book's anticipated arrival.

"Starting at 7:30 this morning, (my husband has) been looking out the front door every five minutes (or less)...He?s also looking at the tracking system every few minutes as well," she wrote. "I was going to title this post 'I married an 11-year old,' but I don't think I want the kind of Google-juice that would provide."

Reuters contributed to this report.

4 comments

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Mugglenet.com, darkmark.com, and cosforum.com
These two forums were shut down by the [M], a forum that which, when received spoilers, posted them on hundreds of harry potter forums; most specifically these 3, which were harassed until they shut down.
Posted by (1 comment )
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Where to find free copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Chic
It may be still possible to find free copies of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" at the Chicago Public Library (CPL) if you are a resident of the City of Chicago.

CPL purchased according to news accounts 1,000 copies of the book and by Saturday had on shelves at least several hundred, as well as cassetted and CD audio versions.

It is likely that as with the Potter book, CPL will have foreign language editions on shelves in neighborhoods with concentrations of people speaking those languages, Spanish, Polish, etc., as soon as they are available from the publisher, Scholastic Books.

In addition, Potter Fans can check where copies are available at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.chipublib.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.chipublib.org</a>. By doing a virtual catalog Title Browse Search on the book title's name and clicking on the listing that pops up that is NOT marked cassette or cd you get a listing of available copies by branch and by clicking on the branch name the address of the branch in question.

The CPL would not take holds on the book until Saturday, so if all copies are out across the system and you still want to borrow it for free, your best bet is to request a hold on the book with your library card at the nearest branch to you, as holds across the system are processed in the order received.

With 1,000 books, "holds" preventing borrowers from renewing the book, and many readers returning the books before the 3 week borrowing deadline in fairness to other readers, if you act fast, your wait to discover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince and the screamingly funny antics of the Potter crew may be shorter than you think.

We were number 4 in line at our branch. What a great book. Worth the price really. Having read it, now I'll have to buy it, just like the last one. Sigh.

Peter, the Peter Files
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://thepeterfiles.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://thepeterfiles.blogspot.com</a>
Posted by (6 comments )
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Want Free Harry Potter and Not in Chicago?
Worth a check at your local library system too.

The bigger the system, the more likely it is that there is a copy out there somewhere that hasn't been claimed.

Peter, The Peter Files
Http://thePeterFiles.blogspot.com
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
I have an idea... STOP READING
If you don't want the story spoiled, then don't read the reviews/spoilers/summaries. It's a pretty simple concept. People don't need to read every word that's presented to them.
Posted by herkamur (115 comments )
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