Harry Potter Frenzy Begins

Savannah Mazda, 15, from New York, poses outside Waterstone's store in central London as she was first to purchase a copy of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.'
At last! Faster than a turbo-powered broomstick, Harry Potter has started flying off the shelves.

Bookstores across Britain flung open their doors at a minute past midnight Saturday to admit hordes of would-be witches, warlocks and ordinary muggles — Potter-speak for non-magical humans — eager to get their hands on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment of the boy wizard's adventures. Shops as far afield as Singapore and Australia put the book on sale at the same time.

Potter fans rushed to tills to purchase the book and savor its opening words: "It was nearing midnight and the prime minister was sitting alone in his office." Many planned to stay up all night reading the 607-page tome.

"I'm going to read it all at once. I don't think I could stop once I got started," said Katrine Skovgaard, 18, who traveled from Denmark and waited in line for six hours at a central London bookstore.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, author J.K. Rowling emerged from behind a secret panel inside the city's medieval castle to read an excerpt from the sixth chapter to a spellbound group of 70 children from around the world.

Millions of Harry's fans around the globe can now solve the mysteries that have been teasingly hinted at by Rowling for months: Will Harry's teenage friends Ron and Hermione find romance? Which major character will die? Who is the half-blood prince?

"You get a lot of answers in this book," Rowling said as she arrived at the castle. "I can't wait for everyone to read it."

Some fans may be thrilled, and others shocked, by the book's many plot twists, which include the death of a beloved central figure, shifting affections among the three main characters — Harry, Ron and Hermione — and a new relationship for Harry.

Pottermania has become publishing's most lucrative, frantic and joyous ritual: hundreds of British bookstores held midnight openings to sell copies of the sixth installment of the boy wizard's adventures. North American stores were due to follow at midnight EDT, with many holding readings, parties and performances for the impatient hordes.

"We've been waiting so long, the idea of waiting one minute longer than necessary to get it is dreadful," said 15-year-old Potter fan Sinead Miller, who lined up outside a London bookstore at 6:30 a.m. Friday along with seven friends.

U.S. publisher Scholastic is releasing more than 10 million copies of "Half-Blood Prince." More than 1.4 million copies have been ordered through online retailer Amazon, and British bookstore chain Waterstone's predicts 2 million copies will be sold in Britain and 10 million worldwide in the first 24 hours.

Launch events were being held from Manhattan — where Barnes & Noble is holding a "Midnight Magic" party at its Union Square store — to Mexico City, where the Libreria Gandhi book store scheduled a midnight sale and a daylong Potter festival on Saturday, even though the book will be available only in English.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com