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Tight security measures to guard Harry's magic

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With just days left before the July 15 midnight release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," some specifics have been unearthed for eager readers.

The book is 672 pages and weighs about three pounds. Its jacket is an eerie lime green, the title emblazoned across the top in purple. At 10.8 million copies, the initial printing is the largest in the history of American publishing - 2 million even more than the last Harry Potter tome.

But most details of the sixth in this seven-book series remain shrouded in secrecy. That's because Scholastic Inc., the book's US publisher, has once again gone to great lengths to make sure that nothing is leaked in advance. Store managers must sign affidavits that they will not release the book prematurely. Distribution centers keep the tomes in restricted areas, often watched by security guards. Scholastic won't reveal what goes into printing, distributing, and protecting the more than 16,000 tons of books. A company representative even declined to say how many reams of paper such an undertaking requires.

So far, no purloined copies appear to be circulating on US soil (although two copies were recovered in a small town north of London last month). And despite a crop of naming contests, the identity of the half-blood prince has not been leaked.

Few in the book world, though, seem to begrudge the author and her publishers their heroic efforts to maintain the mystery until the last possible moment. It's J.K. Rowling's wish that all children be able to unfurl the pages of "The Half-Blood Prince" at the same time, without having it ruined by reviews or spoilers.

Guarding that "aha" moment - "when you read something and it literally takes your breath away" - is honorable, says Russ Lawrence, of Chapter One Books in Hamilton, Mont.

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