Amazon and W H Smith are HarperCollins' strongest players in bookselling, its c.e.o. has claimed.
Victoria Barnsley was speaking after the publisher's parent NewsCorp reported its third quarter results, for the three months to 30th September, overnight. NewsCorp has not stripped out HarperCollins' results since early last year and Barnsley said she could not discuss individual figures.
According to the closest comparable Nielsen BookScan figures, HarperCollins' sales were up 3.2% year on year for the three months to 10th September, versus an overall market decline of 7%. Barnsley said when digital was taken into consideration, sales increased, as did profitability.
HarperCollins' market share for physical titles was up from 7.1% to 7.9% year on year, according to Nielsen. Barnsley said fiction and education were key areas and identified children's as a key category, with titles by David Walliams and Derek Landy strong sellers.
Barnsley said digital was around 11% of total sales with fiction e-books averaging around 14%. She singled out George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, as well as titles published by Avon and The Friday Project, as key digital performers. She said digital sales grew 600% year on year.
However, she said: "The difficulty for publishers is not knowing how much the physical decline is because of digital migration and how much of it is because of the economy. That's why it is so vital for us to get some way of measuring digital sales and as soon as possible. It's become incredibly important if anyone wants to have a proper discussion about market share that we need to be able to measure digital sales."
She said she saw further growth potential with Kobo's recent partnership with W H Smith. She said: "I'm hoping something akin to what happened with Barnes & Noble in the US with the Nook will happen here by Kobo using Smiths to promote and sell their device. The physical presence will help and it's potentially very interesting."
She described the current economic woes as "very concerning". When asked who the key retailers for HC were, she said: "Smiths have been doing a big discounting promotion and have come in very aggressively to the Christmas market. Amazon is doing very well. There's a lot of change at Waterstone's and it's a case of wait and see with them. It's a bit early to call which retailer is going to have the strongest Christmas."