Launch Night Looms for Harry Potter Book

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 19, 2007; 9:14 AM

NEW YORK -- Leaks. Lawsuits. Profiteering. What a way to treat such a fine young man like Harry Potter.

Despite pleas for silence from author J.K. Rowling and some leading Potter fan sites, publishing's secret of all secrets _ whether the wizard lives or dies _ is in danger of becoming plain gossip as publication approaches for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

"As launch night looms, let's all, please, ignore the misinformation popping up on the web and in the press on the plot of `Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,'" Rowling wrote in a message posted Wednesday on her Web site,

"I'd like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day. In a very short time you will know EVERYTHING!"

Two newspapers have published early reviews. Alleged images of Rowling's seventh and final Potter book have already been circulating online days before the official July 21 release. More than 1,000 actual books may already have been received by customers. As of Wednesday morning, the $34.99 release was being offered on eBay, for immediate purchase, for $250.

"That's right _ I've got one copy of Harry Potter 7, on July 17, and it can be yours as soon as July 19. Hurry! Confirmed payment by 6:30PM on July 18 will ensure delivery on July 19 by FedEx Priority Overnight!" read a message from a seller identified as "willpc" and based in Atlanta.

"I don't work for a bookstore, and I don't have a magic wand _ an online store shipped a copy early."

Two pictures of the book, which sits upon a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, are offered as proof. The seller, who declined immediate comment when e-mailed by The Associated Press, has been an eBay member since 1999 and has a perfect "Feedback" score, according to the "Feedback Profile" for willpc.

Hundreds of copies of "Deathly Hallows" are being offered on eBay, but almost all have been promised only after the book is published.

Meanwhile, Scholastic, Inc. announced Wednesday that it was taking "immediate legal action" against online retailer and distributor Levy Home Entertainment after learning that "some individuals have received copies of `Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' through the mail."

In papers filed Wednesday at Chicago's Circuit Court of Cook County, Rowling's U.S. publisher accused the defendants, based in Illinois, of a "complete and flagrant violation of the agreements that they knew were part of the carefully constructed release of this eagerly awaited book." Scholastic is seeking damages "to be determined."

Donna Coyne, Levy's director of product management, declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

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