Cover Stories: Bloomsbury profits; David Blunkett; Hachette Livre; Joanne Harris

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The Independent Culture

Fat on the proceeds of Potter, Bloomsbury this week posted profits of £20m and announced that it has £15m to invest in music, film and sports titles, having already spent a million on has-been pop star Gary Barlow (below). Trade wits are now likening the publisher to a Japanese super-trawler which vacuums up everything in its path. CEO Nigel Newton has also announced a headlong dash into electronic downloads, which assumes the new wave of e-readers, spearheaded by Sony, will actually take off.

* Newton also confirmed that the company has bought the memoirs of former Home Secretary David Blunkett - as predicted in this column a month ago. Essentially diaries that he has dictated down the years, The Blunkett Tapes, due in October, are an important political memoir... with heart and soul," according to agent Ed Victor. Newton also withdrew the veil on another project: collected speeches by Gordon Brown. Each will be introduced by "a leading commentator", among them Al Gore, Nelson Mandela and J K Rowling, who is perhaps planning a career change post-Harry. That book is scheduled for next summer, when Bloomsbury hope to capitalise on Harry one last time by releasing a boxed set of adventures.

* French combine Hachette Livre, part of the arms-manufacturing Lagardère Group, has now signed off on the purchase of the British and US interests of Time Warner Book Group. The UK arm will again be called Little, Brown while, in the US - despite its longevity and the esteem in which Boston-based Little, Brown itself has long been held - will be known as Hachette. Given the anti-French sentiment stirred in the run-up to the Iraq War, maybe this is not such a winning idea. Presumably, George W will not be signing with Hachette for his memoirs.

* Joanne Harris, the former French teacher who burst on the scene several Easters ago with Chocolat, is at work on a novel for pre-teens. Runemarks, based on Norse legends, has been taken on by Random House Children's Books, part of the empire which publishes Harris's adult titles. Philippa Dickinson, no slouch when it comes to talent-spotting, describes it as "funny, authentic and a real page-turner". No doubt the manuscript has already passed the toughest test - the judgment of Harris's own young daughter.

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