Educational publishing was where the big money was in 2007 in the acquisition arena, with three companies spending more than $13 billion. The biggest deal was orchestrated by newcomers to publishing: Apax Partners, one of the country's largest private equity firms, and OMERS, a Canadian pension fund, which teamed up to buy Thomson Learning. When the acquisition was completed, the new company was renamed Cengage, and in early December Cengage reached an agreement to acquire Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep's college group. HM, of course, made its own big deal in the year, paying $4 billion to acquire the U.S. education, reference and trade groups of Harcourt, which HM is now in the process of integrating into its existing operations.

The acquisitions on the trade side were much smaller, but yielded some interesting combinations. After selling the Avalon Publishing Group to Perseus, Charlie Winton, in partnership with Jack Shoemaker, bought Shoemaker & Hoard from Avalon and then formed Counterpoint LLC, which eventually added Counterpoint Press and Soft Skull. Cooper Square Publishing, the joint venture formed in the spring between Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group and a private equity firm, made two purchases: Northland Publishing and T&N Children's Publishing, home to the Two-Can Publishing and NorthWord Books for Young Readers imprints. Another company that made dual acquisitions in the year was Bertram Capital, a private equity firm that early in the year bought AuthorHouse and then added iUniverse to create the largest print-on-demand self-publisher in the country.

Although many independent publishers distributed by PGW were able to weather its bankruptcy, a few decided the time had come to sell. In addition to Soft Skull's sale to Counterpoint, Rizzoli added Hugh Lauter Levin Associates to its roster and New World Library picked up Inner Ocean.

Amazon entered the audiobook publishing field with its purchase of the independent house Brilliance Audio, giving the e-tailer another company involved with content creation.

In the printing segment, Donnelley consolidated its position, completing the $1.3-billion purchase of Banta early in the year and then spending another $400 million for Von Hoffmann. Another big deal that began in 2006 and was finished this year was John Wiley's $1.08-billion purchase of STM publisher Blackwell Publishing.

In 2008 there could be a dearth of big deals. Activity in the educational field is expected to calm down as the major players digest their new purchases, while none of the major trade houses are likely to change hands. A wild card is whether the cheap dollar will entice more foreign publishers to enter or expand their holdings in the U.S., which remains by far the largest book market. In addition, more digital-print alliances, à la HarperCollins's investment in LibreDigital, could be forthcoming.

Company Acquirer Price (in millions)
Thomson Learning Apax Holding/OMERS Capital $7.109
Harcourt U.S. Education/Reference/Trade Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep $4.000
Harcourt Assessment/International Pearson $950
Houghton MifflinCollege Group Cengage $750
eCollege Pearson $477

Bertram Capital acquired
Cooper Square acquired
T&N; Children's Publishing
Northland Publishing
Counterpoint LLC acquired
Shoemaker & Hoard
Counterpoint Press
Soft Skull
Taylor & Francis acquired
Productivity Press
Perseus Books Group acquired
Avalon Publishing Group
Amazon acquired
Brilliance Audio
New World Library acquired
Inner Ocean
Rizzoli acquired
Hugh Lauter Levin