Latest Potter is most successful
James T. Madore

Harry PotterHarry Potter hasn't lost a bit of his magic. The sixth book about the boy wizard, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, has sold more than 11 million copies since its U.S. release on July 16, the publisher, Scholastic Corp. says.

The book also is selling at a faster pace than its predecessors. The fifth instalment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, took an additional three weeks to achieve the same sales total.

"The pace is definitely faster. ... This is the most successful Harry Potter,"' said spokeswoman Kyle Good.

In addition, Half-Blood Prince' sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours, making it the fastest-selling book ever. The record had been held by Order of the Phoenix, which sold five million copies in its first day in 2003.

J.K. RowlingLisa Holton, president of the children's trade book division at Scholastic, called the latest Harry Potter tale "clearly a modern classic" that has spurred more kids and adults to read earlier instalments in the series.

Author J.K. Rowling expects to begin writing the seventh and final Harry Potter book as early as the end of this year. It should land in bookstores in about two years.

Since Potter and his friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were first introduced in 1997, the stories have become a worldwide phenomenon. Nearly 300 million books have been sold in 63 languages, including 116.5 million of the U.S. editions. They also have inspired several successful movies.

Wall Street analysts predicted Half-Blood Prince would surpass the one-year sales of Order of the Phoenix, which totalled $175 million.

Therefore, they forecast an improved financial performance for Manhattan-based Scholastic. Profits for the 2005-06 fiscal year will climb to $97 million from $64.3 million a year earlier. Sales will rise to $2.35 billion from $2.1 billion.

Sigourney B. Romaine of the Value Line Investment Survey warned that Scholastic could be in for a rude awakening once the Potter series ends. She said: "Book publishing profits, more hit-driven than those of the other operations, could suffer if Potter VII, in two years, is really the last of the line."   LAT/WP