'Harry Potter': the End

Like the Hogwart's Express, the invisible train that brings Harry Potter and his friends to their magic school, J.K. Rowling's final tale of the young wizard's saga is building steam as it approaches its July 21 release date.

Around the country, bookstores are planning late-night bashes the night before, complete with costume parties, broomsticks and Harry's favorite game, quidditch. The book goes on sale at the stroke of midnight and is likely to perform its own magic trick, vanishing from shelves in a day.

The nation's largest bookseller Amazon.com has created an elaborate plan to deliver the more than 1.5 million books already ordered online. The online bookseller promises to drop the novel on every customer's doorstep if it is preordered at least three days before the launch date.

"It's the biggest book we'll ever sell all year, and perhaps in the history of Amazon," said Sean Sundall, the company's spokesperson for all things "Harry Potter."

Who Will Die?

Spellbound readers are fretting over the fate of their beloved scar-faced wizard in the last book, forebodingly titled "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

They aren't alone. Publishers and booksellers worry whether they will make a killing as the seven-book series comes to an end, or whether their profits will suffer.

Bloomsbury PLC, the British publisher of the "Harry Potter" books, said advance orders in the United Kingdom were up 17 percent from the last "Harry Potter" book. U.S. publisher Scholastic will print 12 million copies of "Deathly Hallows" on its first run alone.

Massive price discounts set by the big retailers such as Barnes and Nobles, Costco and Wal-Mart will make it harder for stores to earn a profit off the book despite expectations the book will set a new sales records. "Deathly Hallows" retails for $34.99, but many retailers are slashing prices close by $20 to bring customers into their stores.

Analysts say that while publishers are certain to earn a profit, bookstores will most likely break even and perhaps lose money. Even Amazon.com's CEO Jeff Bezos admitted that the company would not make any money from the new "Potter" book, but he hoped the low price and guaranteed delivery option would bring new customers to the site.

Likewise, larger bookstores hope the book will bring in more shoppers browsing and buying more books.

"It's an opportunity to undersell the new book, but at the same time promote backlist in ancillary products," said Lorraine Shanley, a principal at Market Partners International Inc., a book publishing consultancy. "The point is they use 'Harry Potter' for a different end, and whether that's selling more product or creating loyalty it ultimately is a win-win."

Small mom-and-pop bookstores, however, say they can't make the cut.

"It could be the largest book to make money, but places like Amazon are selling them 40 percent off," said Tom Holbrook, who runs a small shop called RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H. "You can't compete with them on price, so we don't discount. Our customers, fortunately, are OK with that."

Neil Blair, a business representative for Rowling at Christopher Little, would not disclose how much the author would earn from her latest book. He assured ABC News that she would not be affected by the price wars.

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