Houghton Mifflin has become the first publisher to take action since Random House announced earlier this fall that it was not looking to expand its distribution business (News, Oct. 12). In an announcement made last week, HM reported that beginning in summer 1999, it will move the distribution and fulfillment functions of its trade and reference division in-house.

Although HM's contract with Random had several more years to run, HM's director of planning, finance and operations, Ellen Faran, said that "recent strategic decisions" made by Random accelerated HM's plans to return distribution of the trade group in-house. The trade group will use HM's warehouse in Indianapolis, Ind., which already handles distribution for HM's college, high school and supplementary divisions.

Faran noted that taking over fulfillment of the trade group will not require any systems conversion since the company recently installed a new operating system that is Y2K compliant. HM is also rebuilding its trade and reference division customer service department, which will operate from Wilmington, Mass. With the return to doing its own fulfillment, HM said that it will consider expanding its own client distribution business. The company could be adding clients as soon as fall 1999, according to Faran.

Elsewhere at HM, the company reported that it has made a minority investment in OnlineLearning. net, an online distributor of continuing higher education courses. The agreement will permit HM to market and sell distant learning courses to its existing customers and develop new online courses using OnlineLearning.net's education model expertise.

OnlineLearning.net offers courses and certificate programs in education, business and management, computers and information systems and writing. It also owns the exclusive rights to more than 4500 online courses offered through UCLA Extension.