Ottenheimer Publishers, the Baltimore book packager founded in 1890, is in the process of closing down the company, and its doors will shut for the final time in about six to eight weeks, according to company president Allan Hirsh III. Ottenheimer filed for bankruptcy last November and has been steadily liquidating its assets since, Hirsh said. He was reluctant to discuss what forced Ottenheimer into bankruptcy, referring only to "changes in the industry."
Ottenheimer's strongest areas were children's books, especially pop-up and board books, and cookbooks. Hirsh said Ottenheimer, which unlike many packagers held onto its book rights, is selling the rights to its active titles to publishers that are currently publishing the books and is offering inactive titles to any interested company. He didn't know how many titles were in its backlist. "It's 112 years of books," Hirsh said.
Although Ottenheimer was primarily a packager, last year it formed Thurman House to republish the works of Nancy Stouffer. Stouffer is the author of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and filed a lawsuit in 2000 against Scholastic and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, charging the parties with copyright infringement. Hirsh said Stouffer's books did "okay," but acknowledged that many retailers were reluctant to carry Legend as well as Stouffer's Larry Potter storybooks, also reissued by Thurman House. Stouffer will get the rights back to her titles. Hirsh said the launch of Thurman House "played no factor" in pushing the company into bankruptcy.
Hirsh told PW that while he is sorry the family business will disappear, he has no regrets about closing down. "It's the right decision," he said.