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Scene is set for the biggest Harry Potter launch frenzy ever

IT'S A date that will be written into every Muggle's diary.

JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final instalment of her hero's adventures at Hogwarts, will be released on 21 July.

The Edinburgh author's publishers yesterday launched the countdown to what could be the biggest book event in history.

Bloomsbury gave little away yesterday beyond the bare details. But over the next few months, in a process wrapped in secrecy and heavy security, Rowling will work closely with her long-time British editor, Emma Mathewson, on the finishing touches to the book, as well as its cover design.

It was just days ago, according to one friend, that Rowling finished scenes she had been planning for more than 12 years.

The choice of July ended speculation of a Halloween publication. Instead Bloomsbury opted for the familiar tactic of a launch at a second past midnight on a Friday night, as school holidays - in England, at least - begin.

Feeding the frenzy will be the release just a week earlier of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth Hollywood blockbuster based on the series.

But with the book's recommended retail price at 17.99, some independent booksellers said they might not able to stock the title due to intense price competition from supermarkets and online retailers. Amazon.co.uk last night was offering pre-ordered copies at 8.99.

Rowling has said that two characters die in the book, bringing appeals from fans and even fellow authors to spare Harry. It has clearly been a struggle to resolve her ending. In the last entry on her website diary from late December, Rowling apologised for the lack of communication.

"The long lack of updates has been due to some very hard work," she wrote. "I'm now writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or more."

There was no word yesterday on whether Rowling, like many a nervous author, had delivered her own manuscript herself.

Nor would her spokeswoman say whether Edinburgh will again host the main launch event for the book.

Bloomsbury, whose fortunes have rested heavily on Rowling's huge success, has a relatively small children's operation.

It is thought the firm is likely to keep the final printing date as late as possible to keep the chances of leaked copies to a minimum. But it must balance that with a huge printing run.

The last book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sold 2,009,574 copies in Britain alone on the first day of its release.

Lindsay Anderson, the Edinburgh literary agent, said: "I think it's going to be bigger than anything you have ever seen. It's not just the fact that the book becomes available, it's that the questions for the last umpteen years will be answered."

The series has sold 325 million copies worldwide and been translated into 64 languages.

GET READY TO WATCH FASTEST-SELLING BOOK FLY

THE seventh Harry Potter promises to be the fastest-selling book in history - beating records set by the sixth in the series.

"Not only will this be the biggest-selling book, it will also break all records to become the fastest-selling book of all time," said Wayne Winstone, children's manager for Waterstone's booksellers.

It is now ten years since JK Rowling published the first book, Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone.

The series has sold 325 million copies worldwide and been translated into 64 languages.

The online retailer amazon.co.uk started taking pre-orders for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows on 22 December, after JK Rowling announced the title.

The company's head of books, Christopher North, said: "Customer demand was incredible. At one point, the orders we received for the book were more than five times higher than those for the rest of the top 20 selling books combined."

 
 
 

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