"I love it so much I get goosebumps," said 12-year-old Lisa Brummett of Mesa, Ariz., after hours of waiting at the WH Smith bookstore at London's King's Cross rail station to buy the thick new book, J.K. Rowling's first in three years.
"Harry Potter is the most magic thing there is," Lisa said, clutching the book to her chest and grinning from ear to ear. "Once I get out of here, I will start reading."
"It's kind of nice to escape to a place a bit more magical," said her sister, Stephanie, 16, looking forward to the 768-page British edition, the longest yet in the tales of Harry and his pals at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (The American edition runs 870 pages, but has the same content.)
The girls' family had rescheduled their two-week tour of Europe to be in London for the launch.
In the United States, CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports that this may be the biggest publishing event of the year. Mary Ellen Keating from Barnes & Nobles says they estimate selling "a million copies in a week."
FedEx says that they have never shipped out so many copies of a single book in a single day.
Mason reports that Harry Potter sales have made the Scottish-born Rowling richer than the Queen of England. When Rowling sold the film rights to Warner Brothers, she also sold the licensing rights. Now there are Harry Potter games, Hogwart's Express Lego sets and even Harry Potter action figures.
Back in London, paying homage to its King's Cross location, the WH Smith store re-created the gateway to Platform 9 3/4, where Harry, Ron and Hermione catch the magical Hogwarts Express to school.
A line of 100 or so eager fans trailed from the store into the station's cavernous arrival hall and contained an equal smattering of children, parents and Potter-mad adults. Entertainers dressed in multicolored capes and magical sorting hats juggled and performed tricks for delighted youngsters, and a painter created Harry Potter scars and glasses on the children's faces.
"She has made a hero of somebody who could have become a victim," said graying Gillian Hammerton, coyly declining to disclose her age. Like Harry, she was orphaned at an early age. "It's marvelous for someone to have empathy with how a child can feel when they are not in the bosom of a family," she said.
As Harry's daring exploits against the evil Lord Voldemort burst upon the waiting world, bookstore owners appeared as excited as their customers.
"It is like a concentrated burst of Christmas," said Wayne Winstone, children's books director for Ottakar's bookshop, which had 77,000 advance orders nationwide.
The book was being launched in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand at the same time as in Britain. And a Paris branch of WH Smith held a special late-night opening with a magician performing tricks and staff dressed as wizards.
In the U.S., aspiring young wizards visiting a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Henderson, Nev., received a pair of Harry Potter glasses and were placed under the famed Sorting Hat to determine which house they belong to at Hogwarts. At a Borders in Chicago, youngsters made owl puppets and got their faces painted as they awaited the midnight hour.
Security remained high at most outlets. The 100 copies already reserved at the Westerville Library in suburban Columbus, Ohio, were being kept out of sight in the basement.
"We are afraid if we wheel them through the library when patrons are in the building we will start a frenzy," manager Annabell Burton said.
The twists and turns in the plot were guarded closely by the British publisher, Bloomsbury. Rowling insisted on preserving her surprises for readers. She did reveal that one of the central figures dies in the book, but said she has not even told her husband who the doomed character is.
Yet leaks occurred. A store in Fishers, Ind., and a New York health food store were among those that mistakenly put copies out for sale. The Daily News in New York City, which bought a copy and published a preview, is now facing a $100 million lawsuit from Rowling and her publishers.
In England, 7,680 copies of the book were stolen from a truck parked outside a warehouse late Sunday night. Earlier this month, a print worker was sentenced to 180 hours community service for attempting to sell three chapters of the book to a tabloid newspaper.
Harry is 15 in the new book, and Rowling has disclosed that he will get to be a real adolescent, with his share of anger and some confusion over girls. There is much emotional interplay in the new book, which goes well beyond the children's genre.
Early reviews praised the fifth installment. USA Today cited Rowling's "wonderful, textured writing." The Associated Press said, "It was worth the wait. And then some."
Harry was 11 in the first volume, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," released in the United States as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Published in 1997, it was followed each year by another adventure, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."
Rowling's four Potter books have sold an estimated 192 million copies worldwide and have been published in at least 55 languages and distributed in more than 200 countries. Blockbuster movies were made of the first two books and the movie stemming from the third will be released next year.
Amazon.com had 1 million advance orders for the fifth book.