For the first time since HarperCollins took over Thomas Nelson, the company reported a decline in quarterly revenue with total sales down 7%, to $328 million, for the first period ended September 30, 2013. EBITDA (earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization), however, rose 8%, to $43 million. Parent company News Corp. said the better bottomline was due to higher sales of more profitable e-books and “ongoing operational efficiencies.”
The sales decline was attributed in part to two one-time events—the sale of Nelson’s Women of Faith live events business and HC’s exit from the distribution business. Sales in general in HarperCollins Christian Publishing were softer than a year ago due in part to strong sales in last year's first quarter of Heaven is for Real. HC CEO Brian Murray said he is "very pleased with where we are in he Christian publishing market," adding that the HCCP team has done a "great job" integrating Nelson and Zondervan. With sales of Christian works off, it was HC’s U.S. general books and children’s groups that helped to pick up the slack with both units posting gains in the quarter led by The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The English Girl by Daniel Silva, and Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. The second fiscal quarter is off to a strong start in the U.S. as Roth's third title in the Divergent series, Allegiant, has sold 1.8 million English-language copies since its release in late October. "You don't get these types of properties everyday," Murray said of Divergent, "but it's fun when you do."
Outside of the U.S., Murray said the different divisions are facing some difficult comparisons, but that overall "I'm feeling good about where we are."
Total e-book sales rose 30% in the quarter and accounted for 22% of revenue in the most recent period compared to 15% in the first quarter of fiscal 2013. Even though e-book growth has slowed, Murray said in certain categories, e-book sales are still growing by 30% to 40%.