Newton hails "terrific" WHS/Kobo deal

Newton hails "terrific" WHS/Kobo deal

Bloomsbury is anticipating W H Smith's link-up with Kobo to sell e-readers will help create "another big Christmas" for e-books, as the Group's e-book sales grew by 564% over the first six months of 2011.

Chief executive Nigel Newton, speaking after the company's interim results for the period to 31st August were announced this morning, said the UK will close the gap between its volume of e-book sales and the volume sold in the US. He said: "It will catch up, it hasn't yet, and I imagine there will be another big Christmas coming up—and certainly people like WHS will be trying to make sure that is the case.

"It is a terrific move for Smith's and Kobo and I think it will grow the market because their demographic won't necessarily be the same as for Kindle devices."

He said the publisher saw an "immediate" leap in e-book sales of Booker-shortlisted Pigeon English following the announcement of the winner last Tuesday, despite Julian Barnes' win over Bloomsbury's Stephen Kelman with The Sense of an Ending. Newton said the book sold 900 digital copies immediately after the announcement, "a good number for an immediate figure". He added: "E-book sales are very responsive to media coverage, and you get the feeling people are going to them for instant gratification."

Executive director Richard Charkin also reported that the company had now had the first two weeks of sales of its Bloomsbury Reader titles, publishing out-of-print books, and that results had been “really, really good—which suggests old books are good books”.

Describing the children's market as "robust" in the company's results statement, and with the children's division generating 28% of the group's sales over the period with a revenue of £12.6m, up 19% year on year, Newton said the company does have "some incredibly dynamic plans and initiatives" in mind for the children's publishing programme. This follows the appointment of Emma Hopkin as children's m.d., and Rebecca McNally as publishing director and international editor-in-chief for children's books earlier this year.

Over the first half of its financial year, Bloomsbury made several acquisitions, including that of academic publisher Continuum. Newton said: "We are in a consolidation phase but remain opportunistic and will continue to look at opportunities as they arise."

In terms of connecting with other companies and setting up new programmes within the company, such as its joint project with Faber, Drama Online, Newton said: "It's an initiation phase from that point of view and there are projects bubbling, so it's an innovative time for Bloomsbury in that respect."

Looking to the next six months and the global economic outlook, Newton said: "We are only as good as our books that sell, and we are fortunate to have that success. Our significant exposure to the US market is really paying off at the moment, with strong figures for the US and the UK markets, so the Bloomsbury strategy for diversification is really paying off."

Meanwhile, he said the fact that no Bloomsbury titles were selected for the final World Book Night 2012 list was due purely to the panel's decision: "We offered our books and things didn't go our way."

He said Bloomsbury continued to sell its titles through a mix of high street, terrestrial, internet and special sales, and said of Waterstone's new ownership: "We are delighted that they are in such good hands."

Bloomsbury's e-book top 10 for the six months to 31st August:

1. Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert
2. The Finkler Question Howard Jacobson
3. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
4. The Song Before it was Sung Justin Cartwright
5. Holes Louis Sachar
6. Ordinary Thunderstorms William Boyd
7. True Grit Charles Portis
8. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Helen Simonson
9. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
10. The Memory of Love Aminatta Forna