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Accio Harry Potter Audiobook

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(Note: NO SPOILERS in this post!)

I'm a latecomer to this whole Harry Potter thing, but am no less enthusiastic about the recent release of the final volume. Last Fall, I got into the series by buying The Complete Harry Potter (also: currently-nonfunctional iTunes link), a then-$249 collection which included the first six audiobooks, expertly narrated by Jim Dale. Yes, this is crazy expensive for any digital purchase. But according to iTunes, this is 3.9 days of narration, comprising 1.34 GB of data. That's a heck of a lot of audio! It took me months to get through the first six books via iPod. And for what it's worth, Dale's performance is the best I've heard for an audiobook.

To seal the deal for iPod owners like me, iTunes is the only digital option for Harry Potter -- Audible and competitors don't carry the Harry Potter series at all, presumably due to the high royalties (and thus high sticker prices on the audiobooks) that are involved in this hot commodity. Yes, you could buy the CD audiobooks and import them if you had a lot of time on your hands, but it could take a while -- the unabridged series should just about fit on 76 CDs. (Note: Audiobook Builder helps.)

So when the final Harry Potter book was released, I wondered: will it show up on iTunes at one minute past midnight, just like the physical books? Well, the short answer was: no. Leading up to the book's release, fans speculated about when the audiobook would hit iTunes. They (and I, ever-refreshing in iTunes) took note when The Complete Harry Potter was pulled from iTunes on Saturday, though the books were still available (and topping the audiobook charts) individually. Would the new audiobook come Sunday? No. Monday? Um, not so much.

As it stands now, audiobook fans can pick up the 17-disc CD set for nearly $50 on Amazon. There is no word from Apple on when the audiobook will hit iTunes, but you can join in the speculation if you've got an idea. As for me? I bought the "old fashioned" book -- yes, made out of ANALOG PAPER -- and starting churning through it on Sunday. And as I read, all I hear is Jim Dale's voice narrating in my head! (Though I should note that seeing the spelling of terms like "accio" and "veritaserum" for the first time is a bit of a shock.)

Oh, and please no spoilers in the comments!

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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