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Canadian store lets slip the new Harry Potter
Toronto Globe and Mail


July 12, 2005

Until 12:01 a.m. Saturday, they're the 14 most valuable books in the world.

And the Canadian publisher of the sixth novel in the Harry Potter series is hoping no one takes advantage of that after it learned last Friday that a British Columbia supermarket had sold at least 14 hardcover copies of the novel in advance of its much-publicized worldwide publication date of July 16.

Vancouver-based Raincoast Books, publisher of the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is appealing to those 14 lucky Muggles to keep the novel's contents strictly to themselves and to "temporarily return" their copies to its offices for "safekeeping" in the meantime. If they do, they'll get a signed book plate from Potter creator J. K. Rowling and a "limited special edition T-shirt" as a reward.

If they don't, they could find themselves in court.

Raincoast's unusual "requests" have the muscle of B.C.'s Supreme Court behind them: Madam Justice Kirsti Gill has granted the publisher an injunction after she was told that a Real Canadian Superstore outlet in Coquitlam, just east of Vancouver, had inadvertently sold 14 copies of the much-anticipated novel on July 7, thereby raising the specter of "irreparable harm" should the contents of the novel be revealed before its official publication at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The restraining order prevents "anyone who has directly or indirectly received a copy" of the novel from "copying or disclosing," selling or "exhibiting in public" virtually anything of the novel before that time.

The gag order also extends to "any other form of disclosure," such as a report in a newspaper or a radio broadcast.

Moreover, "any and all copies" of the new novel held by the 14 buyers "as well as any photocopies (and) photographs" are to be returned to Raincoast, while "all electronic copies" of any part of the book are to be "immediately deleted."

Asked if any books had, in fact, been returned, a Raincoast spokesperson said, "our reaction at this time is one of being tight-lipped." The company "is not trying to intimidate anybody in any way. ... We'd guarantee the secrecy and the privacy of anyone who comes forward."

Secrecy has long been a hallmark of the months and days leading up to the launch of a new Potter, whose previous installments have sold almost 300 million copies worldwide since 1997. But efforts to keep the lid on HBP, as fans are already calling the latest title, have been especially intense ever since Rowling strongly intimated that one of her main characters would meet his, her or its doom this time.

Indeed, Jamie Broadhurst, Raincoast's director of marketing, was insisting that the company's "extraordinary lengths" to tightly embargo HBP was its way of honoring Rowling's wish that "it should be her fans who discover the secret of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in a kind of simultaneous collective experience.

Scholastic, Rowling's U.S. publisher, has printed 10.8 million copies for its domestic market. Broadhurst wouldn't reveal how many copies, in total, were sent to the Coquitlam store or how many Raincoast had printed for the overall Canadian market, except to say that "it's the largest print-run in Canadian history."

Jeff Wilson, senior vice-president of investor relations at Loblaws, said "human error" at the Coquitlam store resulted in the "inadvertent" sale of the books.

"We sincerely apologize to the publisher and distributor for what happened," he said, adding that the company "immediately took rectifying steps" when it learned of the faux pas. It has posted Raincoast's notice in the Coquitlam location and will return to Raincoast any of the 14 books that may be dropped off at the Real Canadian Superstore.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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