Harry Potter fever grips HK as the countdown nears its end

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 12:00am

Hong Kong is gearing up for Harry Potter mania again, as the fifth book in the series was delivered under tight security to Hong Kong bookstores yesterday. Its worldwide release takes place a week from today.

But there were no sneak previews to be had yesterday, as stores which received sealed boxes of the book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by Scottish author J.K. Rowling, locked the stock in storerooms as required under the tough sales embargo imposed by the publisher.

The marketing war triggered by the book among bookstores has already become intense, with many offering discounts for pre-orders.

Page One, will open its four branches at 7am on the release date - up to four hours earlier than usual - to match the time the embargo on the book is lifted.

Philip Tsang Tze-yeung, merchandising manager of Page One, said they started taking pre-orders in February and had extended the deadline from the end of May to Friday next week after being inundated with requests.

'We have received more than 2,000 pre-orders so far. The response is overwhelming,' he said.

Mr Tsang said they had also obtained authorisation from the publisher to make a special paper bag for the book and they would hold a story-telling session on the latest adventure of the teenage wizard in Cantonese later this month.

Lai King-han, marketing and publicity executive of Joint Publishing, said their 17 branches had received more than 1,500 pre-orders and had also extended the deadline for the reservation services from this week to Friday next week.

'We expect the total number of books to be sold to reach a five-digit number,' Ms Lai said.

Joyce Lee Wai-sum, deputy manager of Commercial Press Hong Kong's purchasing division, said their stores had also received thousands of pre-orders.

'We're a bit worried that there will be chaos on the release date. I hope the people who have reserved the book will not all rush to the stores at the same time,' Ms Lee said.

Readers who can't wait for one more week to learn about Harry's adventure can get a brief glimpse from the internet. According to the BBC, a grab of the United States audio book, read by British actor Jim Dale, has been put online. Interested readers can find out more from http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/fi nd_out/specials/2001/harry_p otter/default.stm