Bloomsbury is anticipating 2011 to be the "year of the e-book", as it reported e-book sales were running at just under 10% of trade print sales, as part of its interim results announcement put out this morning (28th February).
For the 12 months ending 31st December 2010, sales were up 4.01% from £87.2m to £90.7m. However, pre-tax profits fell from £7.1m to £5.5m, which the publisher blamed on amortisation of assets, its move to new offices and acquisition costs.
In his chief executive's statement Nigel Newton said e-books were experiencing "extraordinary" growth, particularly in fiction in the US, where e-book sales were already at 15%. He said according to Amazon 40% of sales of recent bestsellers were as e-books, with Bloomsbury "experiencing similar figures". Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question had digital sales of 42% of the total in the US in its first six months. Group e-book sales have increased more than 18-fold between 2009 and 2010 from $131,000 to $2.3m.
The publisher released almost 1,800 e-books last year. Newton said owners of e-book readers were buying more electronic books than they were in print before they owned a device.
Regarding physical books, Newton described sales as "robust" during the second half of 2010 in the UK, United States and Germany. He highlighted The Finkler Question, Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat, the film tie-in of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love and Niki Segnit's The Flavour Thesaurus.
Sales in the UK increased 6.5% to £62.7m last year, which the publisher said was primarily due to the success of its adult list and full year trading of Bloomsbury Professional, its law and business books wing. North American sales were up 1.6% to £19.1m with Bloomsbury adding Borders' Chapter 11 will not affect it as the debt is covered by its US distributor. Continental Europe sales were down 7.3% to £8.9m, which Bloomsbury blamed on weak sales and above average returns.
Its specialist publishing wing, which includes the likes of its academic publishing, Bloomsbury Professional and business support arm Bloomsbury Information, sales increased 9.1% to £28.7m. Trade sales were up 11.1% to £42.1m. However, sales in children's books were down 13.5% to £19.9m, despite "very encouraging" sales of the repackaged Harry Potter books.
Newton said: "Bloomsbury had an excellent year with a number of bestselling titles and particularly buoyant sales in the final quarter. We are also benefitting from our strong position in digital publishing which continues to experience exciting and unprecedented growth. With sales of digital devices such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad growing rapidly, 2011 will clearly be the year of the e-book.
"Our overall trade e-book sales are currently running at just under 10% of print sales, a proportion we expect to increase as more backlist titles are added and as the UK market gains the kind of momentum being seen in the US."
Looking ahead, the business will adopt a new global structure from tomorrow. Newton said: "With the huge growth in digital publishing the market for books is becoming more global. Our major customers are also becoming more global, and, indeed, so is the media with whom we promote our books. The increasing demand for e-books means that acquiring world rights to books and exploiting them globally is becoming the most effective way of protecting our territorial copyrights."