| The Deathly Hallows cover
New York, July 18: Frustrating perhaps the most elaborately orchestrated marketing machine ever mobilised for a book, photographs of what appeared to be every single page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the breathlessly awaited seventh and final instalment in the series by J.K. Rowling, are circulating on the web.
To the publishers of Harry Potter, there is no time or date more sacred than “midnight magic”, 12.01am on Saturday. Bloomsbury, the British publisher, and Scholastic, the publisher in the US, have asked booksellers not to sell a single copy a minute earlier than the official time.
But those less mindful of the publishers’ wishes could go onto various file-sharing websites to look at amateur-seeming photographs of what appeared to be each pair of facing pages of a copy of the book.
The pictures could be downloaded through sites like Pirate Bay and MediaFire.
They showed the book laid out on a green-and-red-flecked beige looped carpet, with fingers holding the pages open. Some of the photos made the text difficult to read, but the fiercely protected ending was definitely legible.
This is the first time that material from any of the hugely successful boy wizard books has leaked onto the Internet before publication, according to The Times, London.
(Penguin Books India, the official distributors of Bloo-msbury in India, said it was not "overly concerned", adds a staff reporter in Calcutta.
"We are not overly concer-ned about this as these things are usually proven to be hoaxes. Even if it were true, this would not affect sales as readers would still be curious to know the real story," said He-m-ali Sodhi, the head of marketing and promotions, Penguin Books India.)
Lisa Holton, president of Scholastic's trade and book fairs division, said the company was asking various website hosts to take the photos down. "We're not confirming if anything is real," she said. "But in the spirit of getting to midnight magic without a lot of hoo-ha, can you just take some of this stuff down'"
The company's lawyers were also pursuing the identity of the person who posted the pictures.
Some fans were convinced that the images posted around the web were authentic.
"I read enough of it to where I could tell," said Emerson Spartz, the founder and web master of MuggleNet.com, one of the biggest Harry Potter fan sites.
Doris Herrmann, an English teacher in Texas who is also a project coordinator for the Leaky Cauldron (leakynews.com), another fan site, said: "I hate to say it, but it really does look authentic."
Tens of thousands of people downloaded the files yesterday, according to BigChampagne, a research firm that tracks file-sharing. By midday, many of the web links were no longer working.
Some who say they have co-p-ies of the book or know the plot have been po-s-t-ing snippets and scans of suppo-s-ed manuscript pages for weeks.
Six photos had been posted on Flickr, a picture-sharing si-te, by a user named her-m-io--e-potter77, a reference to one of Harry's best friends. Over the caption "Here ya go kids, the Deathly Hallows ending!", one appeared to show the first pa-ge of the final chapter; others showed the table of contents and more pages. This material was almost entirely different from what appeared in the images of the full book - meaning one or both had to be fake.
Hype and frenzy have been building for weeks as readers anticipate the release of this final Harry Potter book. Rowling has hinted that two or more characters are likely to die, leading to speculation fr-om many fans that Harry may not survive his own series.
Despite the possible leak, bo-okstores continued to gear up for festivities on Friday, expecting long lines at midnight.
Steve Riggio, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble, which has 1.3 million orders for Deathly Hallows, feels the press coverage generated by potential spoilers just increases advance orders.
"I think kids are still wanting the great big book," said Judy Bulow, a children's book buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver.
NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE