Thousands of Harry Potter fans across Asia -- and the rest of the world -- donned black cloaks, witches' caps and wire-rimmed glasses to cheer the arrival of the latest installment in the boy-wizard's adventures.
Bookstores around the world opened their doors early yesterday and began handing out copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the latest volume in J.K. Rowling's wildly popular children's series, which looks set to become the fastest-selling book in history.
Publishers say up to 10 million copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince could fly off the shelves in the first 24 hours, as "Pottermania" broke out in Sydney, Beijing, Edinburgh, New York and around the planet.
PHOTO: HSIEH WU-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES
In Australia, thousands of "Pottermaniacs," some carrying live snakes, besieged bookstores in the outback, in the country's snowfields and along its beaches.
Before dawn in Sydney, 1,000 fans boarded a special train called the Gleewarts Express which took them to a secret location outside the city where they received their copies in the early morning.
Hundreds more fans crammed into one of central Sydney's largest bookstores to snatch up their copies of the 607-page tome.
Seventeen-year-old Mohammed Jalili-Baleh said he couldn't wait to know what adventures awaited him inside the cover of Rowling's latest book. He and a friend spent more than 12 hours to be the first to get their copies.
"I'm an obsessed fan," he said. "They grip you. When you read one sentence, you don't want to put it down."
In Scotland, children descended on Edinburgh, where Rowling read from the latest book the moment witching hour passed at one minute past midnight.
"I am excited," she said on her way into a dramatically lit Edinburgh Castle. "You get a lot of answers in this book."
Just hours after the book was released, Web sites were already running plot summariesa.
In China, about 40 customers gathered outside the Wangfujing Bookstore in Beijing to buy hardcover copies in English for 178 yuan (US$21) each. It sold 200 books in the first hour and had 4,000 in stock, a spokeswoman said.
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