November 9, 2012

Houghton takes a bite out of Wiley


It’s not Penguin and Random House eating each other, and indeed it’s a bit of a snoozefest, but two big publishers — houses just out of the big six range — announced a bit of consolidation yesterday. 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, beard for Amazon, publisher of Curious George, has acquired two parts of the John Wiley & Sons list: its cookbooks and reference books.

Per this New York Times report, Houghton, which just emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, says the Wiley books it acquired “would complement its current stable of writers and franchises … and reflects the publisher’s confidence in this market.”

The company also says that two bits of Wiley’s reference division, Webster’s New World Dictionary and CliffNotes, will go nicely with its educational publishing properties, where it makes most of its money anyhow.

The deal also includes some web and app products.

What will happen to the editors who worked on Wiley’s cookbooks and reference titles? Oh, the Times dispatch doesn’t say exactly, but Publishers Weekly says that “HMH said a number of other Wiley editorial, marketing, publicity, and production staff will join HMH as part of the acquisition.”

What that number will look like also isn’t said, but a pair or Wiley executives will in fact move to HMH to head the list.

This is book industry consolidation by drips and drops. Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt merged in 2007. Last year Wiley sold its Frommer’s division to a little publisher called Google.



Kelly Burdick is the executive editor of Melville House.