Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Adds to Ed-Tech Arsenal

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Linda Zecher Scholastic ed-tech“Content can no longer be static,” Linda Zecher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s CEO, said back in December. “We need to harness technology in order to make it more accessible, interactive and adaptive.”

To help it with that harnessing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will now be equipped with Scholastic’s Education Technology and Services business, which it announced plans last Friday to acquire for $575 million in cash.

Two key growth areas Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has set its sights on are early learning and professional development content.

According to its new owners, Scholastic’s ed-tech business, which recently saw $249 million in sales, will “provide added digital infrastructure and expertise to support the continued development of next-generation products” for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Much more.

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Five More Ways to Make Digital Pay (DBW)
Last week Hal Robinson of Librios identified five areas publishers can consider for making investments in digital strategy shifts. Here he follows up with five more, premised on the belief that doing so isn’t a zero-sum game; rather, “digital technology can complement conventional processes without losing any of the qualities that make the products of traditional publishing so good.”

Can Penguin Random House Get More from Amazon? (The Shatzkin Files)
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Digital Book World Conference Chair Mike Shatzkin concedes. “And even after a deal is announced, none of us will necessarily know the answer.” But the world’s biggest trade publisher would appear to have more clout—and more disruptive potential—than the four other publishers that each returned to a version of agency ebook pricing upon signing new Amazon agreements.

Pearson: We’re “in Excellent Shape” (The Bookseller)
Reviewing its first-quarter results, Pearson’s outgoing chairman says the publisher is “in excellent shape [and] looking forward to some very good years” under CEO John Fallon. Pearson’s sales rose 5%, largely driven by the strength of the dollar against the British pound, even though underlying sales dipped 1% to £0.9 billion.

No, Children’s Book Sales Aren’t Plummeting (Pub Lunch)
In Friday’s DBW Daily we mentioned a Publishers Weekly report on declining children’s sales that Publishers Lunch now contests, saying that “the real story is more likely the opposite—the depth and resilience of the children’s print book market.” Here’s a second look at those figures.

Amazon Nets a Loss (PW)
Amazon reports a net loss in the first quarter of 2015, with sales up 15% to $22.72 billion but higher expenses contributing to a $57 million net loss. Separately disclosing details of its cloud computing division for the first time, Amazon Web Services grew briskly, from $1 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2014 to $1.5 billion this year.

Scholastic Steps away from Gendered Kids’ Books (Guardian)
“Gender simply isn’t a good guide to what children will enjoy,” says one advocate for removing “for boys” and “for girls” labels from kids’ titles. Scholastic agrees, deciding late last week to remove gender-based filtering from a recommendation tool on its site.

Is There a Future for Pay-What-You-Want Ebooks? (Forbes)
One industry watcher weighs the argument that consumers “need to have a right to choose” how much—and indeed whether—to pay for book content, an idea put forward by a Polish start-up founded on that notion. While the music industry only embraced streaming because the alternative was to capitulate to piracy, publishers don’t yet feel the same squeeze. Some argue that could soon change.

Louis C.K. on Direct-to-Consumer Publishing (Pub Perspectives)
Publishers may be able to take a page out of comedian Louis C.K.’s book—at least when it comes to direct marketing, if not cracking zingers. Sizing up Louis C.K.’s approach to his fans, one industry insider puts it this way: “He knows who they are, what they bought, how much they spent, and most importantly, he can communicate with them directly,” whereas “most authors do not have this level of a connection. Neither do publishers. Amazon, Apple and B&N do.”
Related: What Publishers Miss about Connecting with Customers


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