Some news from Publisher’s Weekly that shouldn’t impact readers of J.R.R. Tolkien but might be discomforting all the same. Long-time U.S. Tolkien publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt “officially filed for pre-packaged bankruptcy Monday morning, citing debts and liabilities of over $1 billion.”

The venerable company, in the publishing world for well over 100 years, has published every one of Tolkien’s works since “The Hobbit,” in 1938 which includes novels, essays and poems. The same company has published many noteworthy books about the author’s works including all 12 volumes of “The History of Middle-earth,” by Christopher Tolkien. (You can see the company’s Tolkien website if you click these words and you can read the rest of the Publisher’s Weekly story right here. Just a hunch but “The Hobbit,” will probably sell even more copies after December.


  1. Guest

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt does not publish Tolkien’s books.  HarperCollins is the publisher. You should be more careful on what you say.

    • Brad Kuhn

      Well, the author is pretty clear in the post that it is the US publisher.  Harper Collins is also a publisher for Tolkien, but not in the US. 

    • Eiphel

      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt does publish Tolkien’s books. There’s a link to their official Tolkien website right there, in the article you’re criticising. HarperCollins is the British publisher, they are the American publisher. So, perhaps it’s you who should be more careful, hm?

    • Stuff and nonsense….. *YOU* should be more careful before dispensing an erroneous criticism…. Houghton Mifflin is identified correctly in the article and even the bloody headline as the U.S. publisher of Tolikien’s books, HarperCollins is the U.K. publisher. Sheesh.

    • HarperCollins is the most recent name of the company.  Houghton Mifflin has been publishing his books for decades.  Perhaps you should do some research before pointing fingers.

    • Aelinmirnovelda

      I have a couple of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books with Houghton Mifflin as the publisher.  More than on publisher has rights to these books.

  2. Guest

    Dear guest poster, Yes, Houghton Mifflin did and still does publish Tolkien’s books. They were the original publishers. Maybe you should click links and do more homework yourself before posting, hmm?

  3. David

    They said nothing wrong.  Houghton Mifflin is the U.S. publisher for Tolkien.  HarperCollins is the official Tolkien publisher for most everywhere else.  

    This is sad news though, and explains why Houghton Mifflin has allowed the “History of Middle-earth” series to go out of print.  

  4. I can’t express how sad this makes me.  Publishers of real books are struggling while purveyors of electronic gizmoes get rich.  To paraphrase Camryn Mannheim, “If it’s a world without books, then I don’t want to live in it.”  (And yes, I mean BOOKS, not pixels on a screen.)

  5. Perhaps we should squabble less about which publisher has the Tolkien market where, and more time being concerned about what this might mean for less-than-bestselling Tolkien titles such as Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth series.

    If HM stays alive, there’s likely to be a restructuring, with less profitable and unprofitable titles dropped. Some of those might be titles we as Tolkien fans might like to see stay in print. And while The Hobbit and LOTR will certainly stay in print–they’re far to popular to go out of print–some editions of each may get dropped. The result with be fewer options. It may also mean that new books on Tolkien are less likely to be published, since new titles almost always involve risk. A barely alive company can’t afford risks.

    And if HM is forced out of business, matters will be even worse, as their licenses are acquired by other publishers, who may or may not want to keep certain titles in print, particularly since there’s always a cost involved in moving a book from on publisher to another. I’ve always been happy with how HM has managed Tolkien’s estate. A new publisher might be less kind, either ignoring it or crudely milking it for maximum short-term profit.

    My own suggestion to HM, one I’ve been procrastinating about sending them, would be a completely new version of LOTR. I visit used bookstores a lot. Before the movies, used copies of LOTR were rare. Fans rarely gave up their copies and, when they did, they sold quickly. Now, driven by the movies, used copies are quite common. That hurts HM’s retail sales. Why buy from them when you can get the complete one-volume paperback for $2?

    What LOTR lacks is a good reference addition akin to many versions of the Bible. Despite its great length, here’s no easy book-chapter-verse way to refer to passages in LOTR, That could be the first reference edition of LOTR–simply use some software to add small paragraph numbers in the margin, restarting the numbers with each chapter. Later editions could add cross-references and each would mean sales even to Tolkien fans who have multiple copies.

    I know I’d love to have a reference edition for my LOTR day-by-day chronology, Untangling Tolkien. In the current edition, I can’t refer to when a day and event happens in the tale any closer than the book and chapter. This would let me get the reference down to the precise paragraph. Instead of taking a couple of minutes to look something up, readers could be there in seconds. That’d be great.

    So forget this fuss about who publishes Tolkien where. What matters is seeing the books we like stay in print and seeing new Tolkien books published.

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