Local book shops prepare for Potter

Area bookstores are gearing up for the release of the sixth Harry Potter novel, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” with employees preparing for late hours, long lines and even a little spirited fun. The book’s much-anticipated release date is Saturday, July 16, with sales embargoed until that date officially arrives.

At Book Warehouse in Rehoboth Beach, themed decorations are already on the walls and more than 100 copies of the magical thriller have been reserved. The store will open at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, July 15, ready to honor the release with pumpkin juice, broomsticks, games and giveaways.

“Since Harry Potter started off, it has been like a snowball gaining in popularity,” said Wally Layfield, manager of Book Warehouse. “It’s now a household name and it’s even slipping into everyday life. It’s not just bookstores.”

Book Warehouse’s neighboring stores will also be involved in the “Midnight Madness” and will open for the release as well. Some have donated items that will serve as prizes for the giveaways.

Bethany Beach Books in downtown Bethany will also open at midnight, with Harry Potter games available for those waiting in what employees expect to be long lines.

Employees working at the store during the fifth book’s release last year were not prepared for the rush of shoppers and were left empty-handed when a television crew arrived the following morning to film the much-anticipated release.

“We feel this year that we ordered enough books, but in the release of the last book we thought we had enough and we were sold out in an hour,” said Lee Grace, an employee at the store. “This year we put in a larger order and started doing pre-sales two months ago.”

Manager Crystal O’Neal at Atlantic Book Shops in Bethany Beach said that after seeing how well other stores did with midnight sales in the release of the fifth book, the store decided to open at midnight, as well, so eager readers can purchase the sixth book as soon as it hits the shelves.

“I imagine they will all be gone soon after midnight. I really don’t expect to have any copies the next day,” said O’Neal. “I think it’s going to be insane. It was massive a couple years ago and it’s going to be just like that this year, if not worse.”

O’Neal said that, on the day before the release, employees will hand out raffle tickets for a free copy of the book. The winner will be announced at midnight.

Signs posted on the walls at Atlantic Book Shops in Fenwick Island invite fans to come for what will also be its first midnight release. Megan Borodulia, an employee at the store, said that although she has yet to witness the talked-about enthusiasts who appear at bookstores clad in character costume, she would not be surprised if that was the scene on July 16.

“We really don’t know what to expect,” Borodulia said. “People in the past have been pretty civil when getting the book, which is surprising considering all the hype. But this year, who knows?”