Potter mania strikes again

No spoiler alerts necessary. We were not among the millions of young readers and parents with credit cards waiting in line to buy the latest and last installment of the Harry Potter saga, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

While we remain in the dark about Harry's fate, the fate of the book is crystal clear: It's one of the biggest blockbusters in book-selling history. This seventh volume in the series sold an amazing 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours on sale in the United States.

That tops all other books -- including the others in the Potter series. "Deathly Hallows" was sold at a pace of 300,000 copies an hour, or 50,000 copies a minute. The book generated more than $250 million in revenue.

"Deathly Hallows" wasn't just flying off the bookshelves. It was practically flying from the printing press straight into the hands of eager young readers.

There is plenty about this phenomenon that will incite cynics. Its publisher had shrewdly revved up Harry Potter fever to epidemic levels before the book went on sale at midnight Saturday. Media coverage has been relentless. Even author J.K. Rowling has been an active participant in the hype, knowing no doubt that this book will add to the pile of money that already has made her the wealthiest author in history.

But all that aside, there still is something touching about all the little wizards, sporting robes, hats, fake lightning scars and tortoise shell glasses, standing in line to buy a book. The book, in fact, more than tripled the opening weekend box office receipts for the latest Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

Some pooh-pooh this phenomenon as the literary equivalent of Beanie Babies, a fad that eventually will collapse as kids move on to the next big thing. But we can't resist the hope that mass reading is a good thing and that it might just spawn an interest in reading other books.

Furthermore, author Rowling deserves great credit as a self-made success story. A divorced mother on the economic skids, she made up a story that captured the imaginations of millions (not just kids, but adults, too) and rode it to fame and glory. She earned every penny of the hundreds of millions of Euros that Harry Potter has brought her.

So, are we glad that this latest episode of Potter mania is over? Maybe a little. But we also are a bit glum that it will be the last, and worried that kids won't transfer their allegiance to other imaginary heroes to be found between hard covers.

Call us dimwitted Muggles, but we'll miss the regular reappearance of Harry and friends.

Sales of the latest installment in the Harry Potter saga set records not likely to be topped soon.