Friday 3 July 2009

Bloomsbury shows bottle to buy up Tottel

Bloomsbury, the publisher of the hugely successful Harry Potter novels, has paid £9.96 million for Tottel Publishing, the Haywards Heath-based professional and academic specialist. Bloomsbury says it now has a “solid platform” in the professional and academic sector and will continue to expand.

Founded in 2004, Tottel has not captured the hearts of the reading public in the manner in which its founders must have hoped. Its historical name sounded to many modern ears like a cross between "totter" and "bottle", and many authors of law works published under the illustrious Butterworths imprint were dismayed to find that their works had been apparently sold en masse when LexisNexis Butterworths looked as though it were conducting a fire-sale. Readers found the original version of Tottel's website quite unnavigable. The company has recently improved its list of law titles but continues to sell some shockers, together with some very out-of-date titles that do not come with a health warning. Some legal authors have also felt that the company has been less than successful in promoting their titles -- though that is a complaint which, rightly or wrongly, is aimed at pretty well all publishers at one time or another.

Presumably Bloomsbury has done its due diligence and knows exactly what it's getting. If it can calm the nerves of the authors whose period with Tottel has been unsettling and keep them within its stable, £9.96 million may be a fair price -- but traditional books aren't selling like hot cakes any more in an electronic environment and Tottel's list of titles doesn't seem to be available for e-book readers.

For further information see reports in the FT and Telegraph

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