Dorling seeks sales boost through Amazon website

THE PUBLISHING group Dorling Kindersley is in discussions with Amazon, the US online bookseller, about boosting sales of its books through Amazon's website.

Peter Kindersley, Dorling's chairman, said the group was aiming to establish a branded boutique on Amazon's site in an attempt to boost sales.

"We are talking about boutiquing ourself on the Amazon site," he said. "We need to get more hits from potential buyers."

Dorling Kindersley, publishers of the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary and the Eyewitness Travel Guides, already sells its entire catalogue of books and CD-Roms through its own websites in the UK and the US. However, although revenues are expanding quickly, they remain a very small proportion of total sales.

Dorling Kindersley is ideally suited to selling online because it has such a large back catalogue of titles. Although many of these are still in demand, shelf space in bookshops is limited to a few key titles.

Last month Dorling Kindersely appointed James Middlehurst, a former managing director of Britannia Music, the direct music sales company, as its chief executive.

Almost overnight, Amazon has challenged established retailers to become one of the world's largest booksellers. The company's success has forced other groups such as Barnes & Noble and WH Smith, to start selling books over the Internet themselves.

The news emerged as radical moves to cut its cost base helped Dorling Kindersley unveil a 16 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 9m in the year to June. Turnover edged ahead to pounds 184m from pounds 180.9m.

Mr Kindersley said the company's overseas sales had been hampered by the strong pound. "When we walk into an office in some part of the world we've got `strong sterling' written on our faces," he said.

Sales of Dorling Kindersley's adult and children's books increased by 6 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively. However, turnover in the multimedia division plunged 26 per cent to pounds 18m as the company abandoned titles in an effort to concentrate on educational publishing.

As a result, the multimedia division will now be renamed DK Interactive Learning.

"Dorling Kindersley recognises that the general trading environment is challenging,'' the company said. Nevertheless, it said its new focus on providing secondary educational materials, including educational games on CD-Roms, meant "the directors remain confident of a return to growth.''

Investment column page 21