Harry Potter comes home

<p>I have to say that the Harry launch was the most incredible experience I have had in nearly 20 years in bookselling. In the end I was up for a solid 24 hours, mostly outside the store with the fans, which doesn't sound impressive when you think about the 20 or so people from Belgium and the Netherlands at the front of the queue who had been there since Wednesday. Those people - in the late teens I think - were incredible. Their chants and songs could be heard down in Piccadilly circus and probably in Pall Mall, and their improvised signs hilarious (&quot;Yes, Aren't We Interesting&quot; WI'm First in the Queue and so are the 19 People Behind Me&quot; &quot;Stare Long Enough and we Might Do a Trick&quot;). Generation H has come of age, got passports and will travel.<img width="200" vspace="10" hspace="10" height="186" align="right" alt="Harry Potter launch at Waterstone's" src="/documents/UserContributed/harryatwaterstones.jpg" /></p>
<p>When the heavens opened Friday morning no one in the queue minded or complained, but we got them all into the store to dry off and warm up anyway, and made sure they all kept their places.</p>
<p>Come midnight, with the world's press inside and outside the store and countdowns being led by Dumbledore and Hagrid, there must have been thousands of people lining Piccadilly watching the queue, itself stretching to Pall Mall, joining in the cheering, whistling and whooping. I don't think London has seen a midnight like that since the turn of the Millennium.</p>
<p>And they weren't there for celebs, we didn't have the author - but we did have thousands of people who all shared the same passion for a book.</p>
<p>The first person to come out of the store did a lap of honour to more cheers than Tim Henman on a good day. I had my photo taken with far more pretty girls than a usual working day, but I think it was my Waterstone's Harry Potter launch shirt they really wanted to be seen with. Loads of people were offering to buy them off us - I think the highest offer was about 200 quid. It stayed on though, not least because it gets chilly in Piccadilly at 3am.</p>
<p>When we shut at nearly 4am, after seeing around 7.000 people through the doors, all the Waterstone's staff, from the Piccadilly store and various head office departments, were shattered but smiling. That was a once in a lifetime event, something every person - bookseller or fan - will remember for years and years. No one cared about price issues or spats between retailers and publishers, and certainly no one gave a thought about the spoilers and spoilsports of the internet and (dare I say it) the papers that published early reviews. And anyone calling out spoilers was ignored or politely shouted down. I drowned out a couple of car loads of lads shouting &quot;Harry's Dead&quot; while stuck at lights opposite the front of the queue by being louder than them. I gave them a few lines of Let Me Entertain You, shouted &quot;Drive carefully&quot; and waved as they drove off laughing, defeated. I got a cheer from the queue when I turned to them and said &quot;No spoilers, not on my watch!&quot;</p>
<p>We won't see the likes of that again. It was the night that a book became bigger than any film, or film star, or celeb or sports' god, and the fans proved that we are still the kings of queueing, that there is nothing more fun, polite, exciting and damn electric than nearly a mile of booklovers, and that while Harry Potter may go to school at Hogwarts, on Friday night he came back to his real home - a proper bookshop.</p>
<p>Figures for the night: over 100,000 sold in 2 hours at the midnight launches. We estimate around a quarter of a million of a people came through our doors at the midnight launches, with around seven thousand at Piccadilly alone. No one counted the smiles, tears, random acts of kindness, but we figure there were plenty.</p>