Seventh-grader Rebecca Gant is captivated by the roiling magic and mayhem of Harry Potter tales.
"They're hard to put down," said Gant, 11, of Lawrence. "I love a good story."
Author J.K. Rowling's fourth children's book about a bespectacled, fledgling wizard, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," will be released in Lawrence at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The publisher, Scholastic Press, will put on the U.S. market nearly 4 million copies of this much-anticipated sequel.
Hundreds of area residents caught up in Pottermania reserved a copy of the 752-page novel at local bookstores.
Some of 400 people who put in a request at Borders Books and Music, 700 N.H., will stand in line at midnight to snag one of the first copies out of the box.
"We don't do nutty stuff like that very often, but this is maniacal. It's amazing. This is a phenomenon," said Doug Weaver, a Borders manager.
Weaver said interest in "Goblet of Fire" resembled hubbub about a Star Wars movie release. The force carried the Star Wars movies and Potter books because they combined humor, strong characters, a good plot and a bit of scariness, he said.
"It's nice, for a change, for all the hype to be about a book a good book," Weaver said.
Sales from the four Potter books are projected to top $100 million. Licensing deals could generate 10 times that amount. In August, release of the second Potter book in paperback will energize sales. Expect these works of fiction to be prominent on holiday shopping lists in December.
John Sterns, book manager at Hastings Books, Music and Video at 1900 W. 23rd, said the store would be open at midnight to serve Potter loyalists. About 125 reserved a copy at Hastings.
"I don't know how many people will show up. We're prepared, if they do."
Customers of smaller Lawrence bookstores also have shown intense interest in the new Potter work of fiction.
Pat Kehde, co-owner with Mary Lou Wright of The Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh, said she originally ordered 40 copies of the book.
"I thought it would be plenty. Then, I reordered, and reordered again."
More than 70 people signed up at the Raven to reserve copies.
"With some books," Kehde said, "it takes five years to sell 70 copies."
She said the Raven would have gifts for the initial 15 to 20 children through the door after opening at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Harriet Shaffer of the Children's Book Shop, 937 Mass., will open at 10 a.m. Saturday to serve Potter fans.
She said the book was already a best-seller because it appealed to a wide range of readers. That intense level of interest will remain throughout publication of the seven-book series, she said.
"I think the interest is there," said Shaffer, a clerk at Children's Book Shop. "The kids and adults love reading the books. I don't have any doubt that it will continue. It's something the reading public really enjoys."
Rowling's fiction appeals to adults seeking suspense a notch below John Grisham and to children hungry for stories more sophisticated than Dr. Seuss, Sterns said.
"The author has a great niche to explore," he said.
Sterns said criticism of Rowling's books as too laden with witchcraft and wizardry was off target.
"Compared to some of the other stuff out there, it's pretty tame," he said.
Zeal for Harry Potter IV prompted the publisher and distributor to implement unusual security measures.
Kehde said she was required to sign a "laydown agreement" with the publisher, Scholastic, and the distributor, Ingram Book Group, to respect the sales embargo.
The agreement stipulated copies of "Goblet of Fire" had to be kept in a secure location and unread even by store staff. Violators were warned they wouldn't receive advance shipments of future Potter books.
Kehde said a coordinated release date wasn't unusual. Signing compliance affidavits for a children's book is unprecedented. "I've never heard about it before."