The seventh and final Harry Potter book flew off the shelves on Saturday as fans the world over poured into stores or waited for the first post to discover the fate of the boy wizard.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows looks set to become the fastest selling book on record based on early estimates, following months of hype and a carefully orchestrated launch designed to maximize sales and suspense.

Internet leaks of the book's contents and newspaper articles containing spoilers appear not to have dampened enthusiasm among readers old and young, thousands of whom dressed as characters from the book for the midnight openings.

Some could not wait to see what lay in store for the characters they have grown up with over the last decade.

I couldn't stop myself from finding out the end first, said Vineet Sharma in Mumbai.

In Johannesburg, Liezl van Rensburg added: I usually read the last page first, but this time I'm going to try not to.

In London, thousands of die-hard Potter followers from dozens of countries dressed as witches, Hogwarts heroes, Death Eaters and plain non-magical Muggles for the midnight launch.

Many more awoke at dawn in Australia and India to snap up early copies. In New York, two teenaged boys disguised as wizards ran around with brooms between their legs, pretending to battle each other in a game of Quidditch.

Social worker Julia Schafer, 26, stood at the back of a line that stretched around the block, anxiously waiting to find out her hero's fate. I would really hope that Voldemort dies. The evil has to end, she said.

In Australia, an avid fan had to be rescued from a lake in Canberra on Friday after he dived in to rescue a pre-purchase receipt necessary to pick up his book.

In Pakistan, a bomb scare in the southern port city of Karachi forced a shop to cancel a Potter event.


Book store chains in Britain said first-night sales outpaced those of the sixth Harry Potter volume, and Deathly Hallows looks set to become the fastest selling book ever.

We've sold 100,000 copies in the first two hours across the business in the UK, said Fiona Allen of Waterstone's. That has outstripped anything we've sold before.

The WH Smith chain sold 15 books every second across Britain overnight, breaking the record set by the previous Potter instalment of 13 per second in 2005.

Online retailer received 2.2 million pre-orders for Deathly Hallows, up 47 percent on book six, and 12 million copies were printed for the U.S. market alone.

The excitement came despite plot leaks on the Internet, some of which proved to be genuine. A mistake by one U.S. online retailer also meant up to 1,200 copies were sent to buyers several days early.

Rowling, credited with putting the fun back into reading for millions of children and adults, said she was staggered when two U.S. papers ran reviews on Thursday.

Just 13 years ago, the 41-year-old was an unemployed single mother, without a publisher or agent, but is now the world's first dollar billionaire writer after the success of her novels and Hollywood movies based on them.

The first six books have sold 325 million copies worldwide.