Blackwell’s narrowed its losses last year after disposing of its Dutch subsidiary Houtschild for €1m in June.

The academic book specialist reduced operating losses to £1.5m in the year to June 30, an improvement on the £5m loss last year.

However, the retailer’s sales fell from £77m in 2011 to £72.8m against the background of a “highly challenging book market and continuing structural changes within the academic sector”.

The company said it has reduced its annual losses by 85% since 2009 as it implements its multi-channel strategy for the evolving academic market.

The retailer said it has recognised the importance of digital content in the sector and has bolstered its digital team, headed by its new digital director Matthew Cashmore, who was appointed in November.

Cashmore is spearheading a strategy to launch a number of IT solutions to support academics by providing access to recommended titles either through university libraries, university intranets or directly to students’ devices.

In the year Blackwell’s partnered with Exeter University to provide another bespoke online student website. The retailer is also selling Barnes & Noble’s The Nook ereader.

Blackwell’s chairman Trevor Goul-Wheeker said: “The progress made during the year is outstanding given the current challenges of the book market and a testament to our people. The board’s over-riding ambition continues to be to create a sustainably profitable business, which can then be handed over to its employees and that can mean taking hard decisions, such as the disposal of non-core businesses like Houtschild.”

He added: “The new higher education fee structure has required Universities to consider innovative ways to attract students and support their learning. We are delighted that so many have selected Blackwell’s range of bespoke bursary solutions as the means to deliver these objectives and enhance the student experience in their institutions.”