IDG Books announced publishing agreements with Reader's Digest and America Online last week, two deals that will considerably increase its presence in the direct-marketing field.

The launch of AOL Press, a joint-publishing venture to produce a new line of America Online-authorized titles, follows similar deals IDG has struck over the past six months to publish Netscape Press and Hewlett-Packard Press. These presses publish authorized technical guides, and are double branded with both the name of the imprint and the IDG label.

The exclusive contract for IDG to be the official publisher of AOL Press terminates licensing agreements AOL previously had with Ventana (now the Coriolus Group) and McGraw-Hill. It also means that AOL will no longer self-publish its own books, some of which were targeted specifically to its members. According to Walter Bruce, vice-president and associate publisher of IDG's Technology Publishing Group, "We plan to publish on topics similar to ones that worked in the past, although we will be writing everything from scratch."

IDG, meanwhile, will continue to publish its own AOL-related titles, including America Online for Dummies, which, like many AOL guides produced by other publishers, are not "official" and hence not governed by licensing agreements. Several of these, including American Online for Dummies, have also been marketed by AOL in the past through its online and telemarketing channels.

Bruce expects AOL Press to publish six to eight titles this year. All the new titles will be marketed online and through telemarketing, some of them exclusively. Those sold through retail will be distributed by IDG.

In a separate deal, which grew out of an encounter at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1997, IDG and Reader's Digest will market two IDG titles through RD's direct mail lists in the U.S., United Kingdom and Canada. Special editions of two titles in IDG's Teach Yourself Visually series, which are 3-D, four-color, sequential learning books for computer beginners, will be reprinted by RD with sturdier bindings for mailing.