Store Sales Up In February

Bookstore sales jumped 11.3% in February, to $1.13 billion, bringing the two-month total to $3.40billion, a 6.7% increase over the comparable period in 2007. Total retail sales were up 7.3% in February and ahead 5.9% for the two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Cuts at Nelson

A companywide downsizing resulted in the elimination of about 60 positions at Thomas Nelson, slightly less than 10% of its total staff. The religious house is reducing its list by 50%.

Fast Start for Penguin, Quarto

Penguin and Quarto have both had good starts to the year. Penguin parent Pearson said the house has made a strong start to the year and is on track to achieve double-digit profit margins in 2008, its stated goal for the year. A New Earth has led the gains in the quarter.

At Quarto, sales rose 22%, to £21 million ($42 million) and operating profit increased to £268,000 from £142,000. Sales in the quarter were aided by a first-time contribution of £3.2 million from MBI, which Quarto bought last year. Sales were up in all areas, with the notable exception of its home improvement line.

RLPG Buys Bernan

Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group has acquired Bernan Associates, a publisher and distributor of U.S. government publications, as well as Bernan’s UNIPUB division, a distributor for international organizations. Bernan also has its own line of reference works, and the majority of its titles are marketed to libraries. Twelve of Bernan’s 30 employees have joined RLPG, including Dave Williams, managing director, and Bruce Samuelson, director of marketing.

Harlequin Inks Libre Deal

Harlequin has become the latest publisher to reach an agreement with LibreDigital under which Libre will handle all of Harlequin’s digital book projects, including its e-books, as well as online browsing capabilities.

NetGalley Pilot Ready

St. Martin’s, Hachette Book Group, Bloomsbury USA and Sourcebooks have agreed to take part in a pilot program with PW to submit selected galleys to the magazine through NetGalley, the new service that offers electronic galleys as well as online tracking of manuscripts. The full service will be launched at BEA.

A Win for Comic Book Defense

After a legal fight lasting more than three years, Georgia prosecutors have dismissed all charges against Gordon Lee, the Rome, Ga., comics retailer originally charged with a felony after a minor picked up a free comic book containing nudity. The dismissal was announced by comics writer Neil Gaiman at New York Comic-con. Charles Brownstein, director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which provided more than $100,000 to defend Lee, said, “This is a great victory for comics.”