‘Harry Potter’ Spoiler Deluge Continues: Newspapers Publish Book Reviews

Author says she is 'staggered' at early reviews; posts long note to fans on Web site.

Just one day after the publisher of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” initiated legal action against several online retailers who shipped copies of the highly anticipated book early, a spoiler-filled review appeared on The New York Times Web site on Wednesday. A less-detailed review had appeared earlier in The Baltimore Sun.

Despite being somewhat vague, the Times review, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Michiko Kakutani, contains tidbits that are anything but nebulous for hard-core fans, including an unambiguous answer to the meaning behind the “Deathly Hallows.” Kakutani claims she purchased the book from a store in New York two days before the end of the official embargo, which is lifted at 12:01 a.m. (GMT) on Saturday. The Sun said it obtained a hard copy of the book “through legal and ordinary means,” according to Reuters.

In a statement released by U.K. publisher Bloomsbury, author J.K. Rowling expressed her disappointment at the papers’ decision to run the review early.

“I am staggered that American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children, who wanted to reach Harry’s final destination by themselves, in their own time,” she wrote. “I am incredibly grateful to all those newspapers, booksellers and others who have chosen not to attempt to spoil Harry’s last adventure for fans.”

The review comes at the end of a weeklong Internet free-for-all, where purported pages from “Deathly Hallows” were published online. While many were indeed fakes, some real ones were in the mix.

J.K. Rowling’s attorney issued a statement saying as much on Wednesday (see ” ‘Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows’ Leaks: Some Are Legit, Rowling’s Attorney Reveals” ). He did not specify which pages were actually written by Rowling.

But the week hasn’t been completely miserable for Rowling — she posted a long letter to fans on her Web site on Friday (July 20) saying she felt “a heady mixture of excitement, nerves and relief.” (To read the full missive, in which she doles out a long list of acknowledgements, you’ll have to go to JKRowling.com, use a “port key” and do some digging.)

Also, in a post on her Web site Wednesday, Rowling wrote: “We are almost there! As launch night looms, let’s all, please, ignore the misinformation popping up on the web and in the press on the plot of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’ I’d like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day. In a very short time you will know EVERYTHING!”

Though the leaks have yet to be traced, it’s possible some of them are the result of a mail-order mix-up. Copies ordered through DeepDiscount.com — about one one-hundredth of one percent of the total of U.S. pre-orders — arrived as early as Tuesday, instead of the Saturday on-sale date. Publisher Scholastic is now taking legal action against DeepDiscount.com and its distributor Levy Home Entertainment for the breach of their on-sale agreement.

Scholastic is also asking fans who have received early copies to “keep the packages hidden until midnight” on Saturday. “Scholastic is especially grateful to the other retailers and distributors for their careful attention to keeping the books secure until the release time and for planning thousands of spectacular midnight parties where fans will celebrate together,” spokeswoman Kyle Good said. “And we ask everyone, especially the media, to preserve the fun and excitement for fans everywhere.”

“I’m just hoping that I can make it through the rest of this week without getting anything spoiled for me,” Matthew Vines, webmaster of the Potter fan site Veritaserum, said. “I’m amazed I haven’t gotten anything ruined yet.”

“All I want is to get this book in my hands and enjoy it the way it was meant to be,” Leaky Cauldron webmaster John Noe said. “I couldn’t be more angry at anyone to take that away from me or any other real Potter fan unfortunate enough to stumble upon these spoilers.”

Most Harry Potter fan sites refuse to spoil the story for their readers and are not putting up the scanned and/or photographed pages. But the amount of Web sites willing to risk legal action from Bloomsbury and Scholastic keeps increasing, even as the publishers attempt to stop the flow with subpoenas.

Some of the social-networking and sharing sites (such as Gaia Interactive, Photobucket.com, Flickr, MediaFire and YouTube) have already complied and removed the material, which by itself isn’t an indicator whether their “leaks” were the real ones or not, since Scholastic holds the position that “any material from or derived from the books is a copyright infringement.”

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[This story was originally published at 2:47 p.m. on 07.18.2007]