Fourteen-year-old Ashley Bernard has been a huge Harry Potter fan since she was 7, but each time a new book comes out, she’s had to wait longer than most of her friends to get a copy.
Bernard is blind, and the first six Potter books were not published in Braille until some time after they hit book retailers. Not this time.
For the seventh and final installment of the schoolboy wizard’s battles against the evil Voldemort, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the National Braille Press is making the book available to the blind at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the same time that sighted readers can buy print versions of the book.
“I am so happy. I have a lot of friends who really like the books so they are going to be talking about it. If I don’t have the book right when they do, I’m going to be totally lost,” said Bernard, who has been blind since birth.
“When you don’t have a Braille version, people always say, ‘Couldn’t you get someone to read it to you?’ But it’s not the same thing. Would you want someone to read it to you?” she said.
The National Braille Press is mailing out copies of author J.K. Rowling’s book late this week so they will be delivered on Saturday for those who can’t make it to Boston to pick up a copy in person.
“We have an army of white owls getting ready to drop them on doorsteps across the country on Saturday morning,” said Diane Croft, vice president of publishing and marketing, referring to the method of transporting mail in the Potter books.
For the book to be released Saturday, publisher Scholastic Inc. made an advance copy available to the National Braille Press, and employees have been working feverishly for two weeks to get the Braille version ready for distribution, a labor intensive process because so much has to be done by hand.
The Braille version will be 1,100 pages in 10 volumes, weigh 12 pounds, and stand a foot tall when stacked up.
The National Braille Press usually does a press run of 200 to 300 copies of a new book, but will produce 1,400 copies for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
“This is largest press run we’ve ever done for a book,” Croft said.
In 2000, when the Harry Potter fervor was intensifying, the press produced copies of No. 4 in the series, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” in just a few weeks, an unheard of accomplishment in the world of Braille publishing at the time.
In 2005, the press released a Braille version of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” just three days after the print version was released.
And as thousands line up at traditional book stores before the 12:01 a.m. release of the book, the Boston headquarters of the Braille press will hold its own “midnight magic” Harry Potter costume party, where more than a dozen children are expected to pick up their copies.
Bernard, who said she has read every Potter book a couple of times “at least,” plans to be there to be one of the first to get the book.
“I like the character development. I like the plot, I like the action, I like how she describes everything so vividly so you can feel like you’re there almost,” Bernard said.
Bernard said getting the book at the same time as her friends is particularly important for the final installment of the series, with anticipation about the ending reaching a fevered pitch.
“I don’t want to be disappointed that someone is going to tell me what happens,” she said.