15 April 09 | Chad W. Post

Yesterday it was announced that Moody’s has downgraded Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s rating, which sounds sort of familiar . . . probably because they did the same thing last December.

This isn’t good news for the Education Media & Publishing Group—which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and owns HMH—but rather than pick on HMH for its mishandling of Drenka Willen’s retirement, or for telling the media about their freeze on acquisitions, I’d rather just point out the frightening statistic that triggered this downgrading:

Moody’s maintains that HMH remains vulnerable to state and local spending in the United States on so-called basal and supplemental K-12 (twelfth grade) educational publications. It says those categories posted a 22.8pc decline in sales in January 2009. (from Independent.ie)

A 22.8% decline in sales in one month is pretty severe, especially when talking about educational publications. Book sales overall were flat in January, although they did plunge in February (like all other retail sales) by more than 10%.

On the positive side of things, Cees Nooteboom—one of Drenka’s authors—has been getting some good buzz for Nomad’s Hotel, such as this write-up in Flavorpill’s Daily Dose. And Filip Florian—another HMH author whose Little Fingers sounds pretty interesting, and is under review—will be the feature author at the Observer Translation Project next month.

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