Harry's final bow
What weighs more 16,700 tons, has an orange and yellow jacket and appears one minute after midnight on July 21? It doesn't take much wizardry to guess it's the first U.S. printing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's record-breaking series about the boy wizard. The story runs for 748 pages, the only instance where this book's numbers dip below any of its predecessors. (Book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, topped out at 870 pages, making Book 7 the second longest in the series.)
Here are a few more numbers to consider as anticipation builds for this unprecedented publishing phenomenon:
• 12 million — Total number of books in the first U.S. printing, the largest first printing of any book in history, beating out the runner-up by 1.2 million books. The runner-up was 2005's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which had a first printing of 10.8 million copies and sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release, making it the fastest-selling book in history.
• 65 percent — The percentage of the paper used in the U.S. first printing of Deathly Hallows that will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), making Harry Potter's seventh installment the largest purchase of FSC-certified paper to be used in the printing of a single book title. All of the paper will contain at least 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber.
• 100,000 — Deluxe edition sets of Deathly Hallows available in the U.S., featuring an exclusive wraparound jacket and full-color frontispiece by illustrator Mary GrandPré, along with a foil-stamped slipcase. List price for the deluxe edition is $65, compared to $34.99 for the regular book, although both prices are being deeply discounted by many booksellers.
• 37, 10 and seven — The number of libraries, cities and weeks for the cross-country Knight Bus National Tour sponsored by Scholastic. The tour features a triple-decker purple bus decorated like the magical bus Harry rides in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Fans can add their thoughts about the series to a video journal when the bus stops in their town.
• 1,700 — Fans who will get to meet Rowling for a midnight book-signing party at London's Natural History Museum on July 21. Five hundred lucky winners, chosen at random, will also attend her midnight reading prior to the signing. And seven of these fortunate youngsters will be from the U.S., courtesy of an online sweepstakes from Scholastic
• 325 million — Total sales of the first six Harry Potter books to date, worldwide.
• 120 million — Number of Harry Potter books in print in the U.S. alone.
• $3.5 billion — Total gross worldwide for the Harry Potter films (so far).
• 138 minutes — Reported running time for the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, to be released in the U.S. on July 11. Not bad, considering the length of the book (870 pages).
• 12 — Number of Harry Potter stamps to be released by the United Kingdom's Royal Mail. The stamps will feature the cover art from Bloomsbury's British editions of all seven novels, as well as the Hogwarts school crest and the emblems for each of its four houses.
• $265 million — Expected cost to build "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," a theme park set to open at Universal's Orlando Resort in 2009. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the village of Hogsmeade, the mysterious Forbidden Forest and, of course, Hogwarts castle. "The plans I've seen look incredibly exciting, and I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed," Rowling says of the project.
Enough facts, more fantasy
Of course, the impending release of this seventh and final book has only served to spur curiosity about the fate of Rowling's magical hero. And the biggest question is: Will Harry survive his final battle with Lord Voldemort?
Though the "Harry dies!" voices are the loudest in this discussion, most fans (including this writer) think they're wrong, based on the tone of the novels, statements by Rowling and the audience for the books. On the other hand, bookmakers in the U.K. are now refusing wagers from bettors who believe Harry will be killed off in the final book, citing an avalanche of bets.
In any case, Rowling has stated that at least two major characters will die, and that one will get a reprieve, but she has hinted that these are not the only deaths. Speculation revolves around which of the characters she is referring to—Harry, Lord Voldemort, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Snape, Draco, Neville Longbottom, Ginny or another Weasley (or more than one).
Other questions fans would like to see answered in Deathly Hallows: Is Dumbledore really dead? Will Sirius Black come back from the dead? (In Egyptian mythology, the dog star Sirius is a symbol of resurrection.) What are Harry and Lord Voldemort reaching for on the book's cover (shown above)? And of course, the classic question: Is Severus Snape evil or good?
Whatever the outcome for Harry and his friends, one prediction is certain—on July 21 a legion of fans will be reading into the wee hours to find out what happens to their hero. And I'll be one of them.
Howard Shirley is a writer in Franklin, Tennessee, with a fascination for Harry Potter and the wizarding world.