Bloomsbury hails the UK's e-book 'revolution'

James Thompson
Saturday 28 May 2011 00:00

Bloomsbury publishing has hailed explosive sales of its electronic book (e-books) sales, despite its full-year profits slumping by 41 per cent.

The publisher of the Harry Potter series said its e-book revenues surged to £1.5m in 2010, from a meagre £79,000 the previous year. More impressively, e-book sales rose to £1.1m between January and March of this year alone.

The figures are strategically important for the publishing industry, which has been badly hit by the closure of physical book shops, such as Borders in the UK, and fierce discounting by the big supermarkets.

While Amazon has been a keydriver of this price competition on physical books, the online retail giant's Kindle device has also been a major force behind the exponential growth ine-books. Jeremy Wilson, the chairman of Bloomsbury, described the rapid digitisation as a "revolution".

He said: "Bloomsbury is undergoing one of the most significant periods of adaptation in its 25-year history."

Nigel Newton, the founder and chief executive of Bloomsbury, said that while the US had led the way, there had been a "surge in demand" in e-book sales in the UK since the last quarter of 2010. He said: "UK and US e-book sales are both growing apace, and with the Kindle now firmly established in the UK market and recently launched in Germany, there is now a focused effort to sell e-books throughout the world."

To align it to the publishing sector's increased globalisation and more demand for digital content, Bloomsbury on 1 March reorganised itself into four divisions: adult, children's and educational, academic and professional, and information.

For the 14 months to 28 February, Bloomsbury's pre-tax profits tumbled to £4.2m, compared with the year to 31 December 2009. It blamed the decline on a series of one-off items, including a £1.5m write down in the value of Berlin Verlag, the German publisher it bought in 2003. The group's sales for the 14 months came in at £103.4m. Bestsellers at Bloomsbury included Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre.

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