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BIRMINGHAM, AL-Earnings climbed 40% in the latest quarter on a year-by-year comparison for book store chain and online retailer Books-A-Million. The company, in a conference call Tuesday, reported earning $2.1 million and 13 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended May 5, compared with net income of $1.5 million and nine cents per diluted share in the year-earlier period.

The chain, which operates more than 200 stores in 20 states, also showed increased net sales of $116.3 million for the 13-week quarter, against $113.9 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Comparable store sales for the quarter decreased 0.5% when compared with the 13-week period for the previous year, but Sandra B. Cochran, president and CEO, pointed out that the company was up against a strong comp from last year.

Cochran cited “an improving media environment” for book sales, including a boost that the industry received when Oprah Winfrey endorsed “The Secret.” She said that the company anticipated a strong surge from the publication of a new Harry Potter book that is due out in July.

Books-A-Million operates large superstores under the names Books-A-Million and Books & Co. and traditional bookstores operating under the name Bookland, Books-A-Million and Joe Muggs Newsstands. The company has said in recent public filings that its growth strategy is focused on opening superstores in new and existing market areas, particularly in the Southeast.

In addition to opening new stores,”management intends to continue its practice of reviewing the profitability trends and prospects of existing stores and closing or relocating under-performing stores,” one filing noted. During fiscal 2007, the Books-A-Million openednine stores, closed eight and relocated two.

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