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News Corp to buy Houghton Mifflin consumer books for $349 million

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Publishing giant News Corp. is buying Houghton Mifflin’s consumer books division for $349 million as demand for printed reading material skyrockets.

Houghton Mifflin’s HMH Books & Media book division — publisher of J.R.R. Tolkien and the Curious George series of children’s books — will be operated as part of News Corp.’s Harper Collins book publishing arm.

The deal comes amid a resurgence in books sales due to the pandemic and marks the second acquisition this month for News Corp., which last week agreed to buy Investors Business Daily for $275 million. News Corp. is also the publisher of the New York Post.

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The deal for HMH Books & Media as well as the Investor’s Business Daily are expected to close by the end of June.

Last year marked the best year for print book sales since 2010 as the COVID-19 shutdowns turned Americans, especially young people, into readers again.

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Harper Collins is the world’s second-largest consumer book publisher behind Germany’s Bertelsmann, which owns Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher that last year inked a deal to acquire Simon & Schuster for $2.17 billion.

The deal will give Harper Collins 7,000 backlisted titles from authors like George Orwell (“1984” “Animal Farm”); J.R.R. Tolkien (“The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings”); Robert Penn Warren (“All the King’s Men”); Margaret Rey and H.A. Rey (“Curious George”) and Virginia Woolf (“Mrs. Dalloway” “To the Lighthouse”).

“There is a resurgence in reading and listening to books, and we believe the brilliant HMH Books & Media backlist and first-rate frontlist have an enduring and increasing value,” News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said in a statement. “The HarperCollins collection will be bolstered for children and young adults, and authors around the world will have a larger platform for their creativity and ingenuity.”

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