Now this is wizardry.
Pictures of what appear to be all or most of the wildly anticipated seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, due for release July 21, proliferated on the Internet Tuesday, seemingly penetrating the unprecedented shroud of secrecy put into place by the book's publisher.
Hundreds of low-quality photos resembling the book's pages could be accessed at various websites or downloaded through peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, although some sites seemed to malfunction as the day progressed. While it is unlikely that most fans' eyes could handle reading all 784 of the pages on a computer, the purported security breach prompted questions about the publisher's handling of the final Potter book and concerns that the ending could be spoiled. Author J.K. Rowling has hinted two characters will die, and readers have been trying for months to figure out who.
Scholastic Inc., the American publisher of the series, would neither confirm nor deny whether the pages shown in the photos are authentic. Lisa Holton, president of the company's trade and book fairs division, said that Scholastic had been working for months to remove any suspected leaks as well as entire fake books. Holton urged fans to avoid any material available before the 12:01 a.m. Saturday release, because, she said, "there is no way to tell what's real and what's not."
Yet in a move that seems to indicate that some copies are authentic, Scholastic obtained a subpoena Monday to learn the identity of a user on Gaia, a social networking site for teens, who had allegedly posted scanned copies of the book's pages. Holton said most webmasters from Gaia and other sites have been cooperating with Scholastic's requests to take down any possibly pirated material.
In a separate incident Monday, Byron Ng, 33, of Vancouver, Canada, downloaded more than 350 images of what appear to be the book's pages through The Pirate Bay, a Sweden-based website. After reading in the newspaper Sunday that publishers had spent $20 million to fit trucks with satellite tracking systems and fastened books with alarms, Ng, a self-employed computer security specialist, decided to use a peer-to-peer file-sharing service to see if he could find the book online.
Ng denies that he is an overzealous fan. He says that he has never finished reading a Potter book and even now does not know who dies in the upcoming one; the answer isn't on the last page of the book, which he saw, and he says he did not look elsewhere. Ng says he tried to find the book online in hopes of landing a job as a scout for media companies looking to prevent leaks. "It's sort of like a resume thing," he says.
Ng and others' tricks are a potential embarrassment for Scholastic, which has been tight-lipped even about where the Deathly Hallows is being published. Most of the text in the images Ng viewed is legible, and spoiler sites abound claiming to know each character's fate.
Even so, Holton remains unfazed. "The fans are saying what they've always said, which is 'Don't even talk to me, I don't want to know the ending,'" she said. "I don't think it's going to spoil anyone's fun."