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Rowling completes sixth Harry Potter book

Get ready for publishing's ultimate blockbuster sequel: Harry Potter VI. Setting the stage for another round of midnight bookstore parties and marathon readings into the morning, the penultimate novel in J.K. Rowling's mega-selling series, ''Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," will go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on July 16 in the United States, Britain, and four other countries, publishers said yesterday. ''I know you all expected this to happen on Christmas Day, but I was sure that those of you who celebrate Christmas have better things to do on the day itself than fight your way into my study," the British author wrote on her website. Rowling, 39, noted that while she is pregnant with her third child, she has had the time ''needed to tinker with the manuscript to my satisfaction and I am as happy as I have ever been with the end result. I only hope you feel it was worth the wait when you finally read it." The announcement not only pleased Rowling's millions of followers, it also delighted the markets -- who rewarded the book's publishers amid expectations of huge profits. The 2005 publishing date means the world will be spared the seemingly interminable three-year wait between Potter IV, ''Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and Potter V, ''Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which came out in summer 2003. Competition for sales began almost immediately, with Amazon.com and the superstore chains Barnes & Noble Inc. and Borders Group Inc. announcing 40 percent discounts on the book's $29.99 suggested retail price. By yesterday, ''Half-Blood Prince" was already No. 1 on Barnes & Noble.com's bestseller list and was in the top 10 on Amazon.com. For months, Rowling has been revealing details of her new book, naming the titles of three chapters -- Chapter 2: Spinners End; Chapter 6: Draco's Detour; Chapter 14: Felix Felicis -- and even confiding that one of her characters will not survive, although she refused to say who. Potter himself is safe, at least for now.

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