Tuesday 12 December 2017

Print books will survive digital age, says Potter publisher

Jamie Grierson

The founder of Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury said he saw "no evidence" that print books were a dying format as the group unveiled a surge in ebook sales.

The firm behind bestsellers such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'River Cottage Veg Everyday!' and Jesmyn Ward's novel 'Salvage the Bones' saw a 70pc jump in ebook sales from March 1 to July 11, compared to a 2pc decline in print sales.

But chief executive and founder Nigel Newton said there was still a future for print, adding: "It will be a mixed market. Just as it has been for 40 years for hardback and paperback formats -- it's just another new format."

Bloomsbury, which enjoyed great success from the Harry Potter series, benefited from having several prize-winning novels in its collection in the period, including Madeline Miller's 'The Song of Achilles', which won the Orange Prize.

'Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2012', Ben Macintyre's 'Double Cross' and 'Heston Blumenthal at Home' also sold well, while a new cookery book from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall based on a 50-part television series is poised to be the next bestseller.

Mr Newton, a dual US and UK citizen who founded the publisher in 1986, said the US was leading the way with the ebook market.


"In terms of subjects, there are all sorts of trends," he said. "Fiction is strongest."

"Genre fiction is particularly strong, where people read book after book and are not seeking to treasure them on their bookshelves -- books like historical, western and sci-fi. But literary fiction is prone to ebook downloading too."

Mr Newton, who read English Literature at the University of Cambridge, said all age groups were downloading ebooks including "significantly" middle-aged to older readers.

"This is not a youth-driven techno fad," he said.

The group made a number of acquisitions in the period including fashion textbooks publisher Fairchild Books and digital arts group Applied Visual Arts Publishing.

Shares in Bloomsbury were 2pc higher after yesterday's update. Steve Liechti, analyst at Investec, said: "We are encouraged by continuing strong ebook sales which are growing the overall market."

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