NEW YORK – Reports of a buying freeze at Harcourt Houghton Mifflin is news to the publisher of one its imprints.
"I don't work at the Harcourt offices so I called to find out if the story was true," Otto Penzler, whose Otto Penzler Books specializes in mystery books and releases 6-8 titles per year, said Wednesday.
Penzler was referring to media stories alleging that Harcourt Houghton Mifflin (HMH) had temporarily stopped acquiring new books.
"I was told that it had been blown out of proportion and that there was simply some belt-tightening going on. I asked, `Does this mean I can keep buying books?' `Absolutely,' I was told.
Penzler says the information came from a high-level Harcourt Houghton executive, whom he declined to publicly name, saying he wanted to preserve the official's privacy.
The book world was stunned Monday by a posting on the Web site of Publishers Weekly that HMH had "temporarily stopped" buying books, the latest shock resulting from the economic crisis. HMH is the publisher of Philip Roth, Nobel laureate Gunter Grass and one of the literary world's most lucrative franchises, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.