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People have “rediscovered the pleasure of reading” in lockdown, publisher Bloomsbury has said, after reporting its best half-year profits since 2008. The firm, best known for publishing the Harry Potter books, said profits jumped 60% to £4m from February to August.

Online book sales and e-book revenues were both “significantly higher”. It said bestsellers during the period included “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” and “Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood”. Other popular consumer books during the period included “White Rage”, “Humankind” and “Such A Fun Age”.

Nigel Newton, founder and chief executive of Bloomsbury, said the firm initially feared lockdown would batter the business after it shut all its shops in March.

But he told the BBC: “As we cycled through the month there became a real uptake in reading, perhaps people tired of watching streamed movies which they binged on to begin with and turned to books.”

He said people’s book choices had reflected the mood of the people throughout the past six months: “In June we published ‘Humankind’ by Rutger Bregman, people wanted hope and a positive view of humanity, which he gave, and in June itself the biggest social issue of our time, with ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’.

“[That was] unpinned all the while by the desire to make good food, so the Dishoom cookbook and others really sold terrifically well.” During the period total sales across the group rose by 10% to £78.3m. Bloomsbury also said its digital resources division had seen a 47% rise in sales as academic institutions had switched to digital products to support remote learning.

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