Henry Oscar Houghton: Archon of Houghton Mifflin
Book publishers are consolidating into larger companies, often by acquisition, with international publishing behemoths like Hachette Livre of France and Germany’s Bertelsmann AG gaining an increasingly larger share of the market. Houghton Mifflin Company is a prime example of this trend. In November 2007 HM Rivergroup PLC, an Irish software publisher with sales of only $330 million, acquired the larger Houghton Mifflin, a book publisher specializing in educational books with sales exceeding $1.4 billion annually, for a reported $3.3 billion. A year later Houghton Mifflin Company acquired Harcourt Education, Harcourt Trade and Greenwood-Heinemann Divisions, making it the preeminent educational publisher in the U.S. with sales exceeding $2.5 billion. Yet the book publisher retains the same name its founder, Henry Oscar Houghton, gave it in 1880. Houghton did not set out to become a publisher. Like so many of the titans, life for Houghton began on a farm, where money was a luxury and the soil and weather not always accommodating.