Belfast Telegraph

E-book boom drives revenues at Bloomsbury

Publisher Bloomsbury said its e-book sales grew eighteen fold in 2010 and now accounted for just under 10% of print sales as more customers downloaded titles to read on iPads and other handheld devices.

Bloomsbury said revenues of £90.7m were up 4% in the year to December 31, while profits excluding one-off items lifted to £8.4m from £7.7m a year earlier.

Strong demand for Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, which was turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts, and the Harry Potter books following the film release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows helped Bloomsbury's sales in the final quarter of the year.

Bloomsbury predicted that 2011 will be "the year of the e-book" as more titles become available for download, sales of handheld devices such as Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad grow rapidly, and the UK gains the kind of momentum seen in the United States, where e-books account for 15% of sales.

The trend was highlighted by the success of the 2010 Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question, which saw 42% of its US sales through e-books in its first month.

Chief executive Nigel Newton said: "Bloomsbury had an excellent year with a number of best-selling titles and particularly buoyant sales in the final quarter.

"We are also benefiting from our strong position in digital publishing which continues to experience exciting and unprecedented growth."

Bloomsbury, which published nearly 1,800 e-books in 2010, was encouraged by industry figures showing that people with handheld devices buy more e-books than they bought paper books.

Meanwhile, the owner of publisher Penguin posted a 28% surge in annual profits as it hailed the division's best UK performance in its 75-year history.

Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times Group and a large education division, said sales of books such as Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals and Stephen Fry's The Fry Chronicles boosted its 2010 performance.

Pearson reported pre-tax profits of £670m as group sales jumped 10% to £5.7bn last year.

But it cautioned a squeeze on Government spending would hit trade in 2011.

As the group revealed its full-year results, chief executive Marjorie Scardino said Pearson was "uncomfortable" having the Libyan Investment Authority, a state-backed wealth fund, as its fourth-biggest shareholder.

Ms Scardino said the company was waiting to learn more about the implications of UK Government plans to freeze assets held in Britain by President Muammar Gaddafi.

"Clearly the Libyan Investment Authority, which we assume to be the owner of our shares, is a state asset, and it's hoped that those assets, if frozen, could be better deployed when they're unfrozen," Ms Scardino said.

"It's abhorrent to us what's happening in Libya and we've made it pretty clear that we're uncomfortable about the holding, but we work in a public market, companies don't choose their shareholders, shareholders choose the companies."