Canadian Publisher Nelson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Strike Deal on Distribution

Managing Editor

Canadian education publisher Nelson has struck a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to help the major, Boston-based company reach buyers across Canada’s vast but fragmented school landscape.

The distribution deal with HMH is just the latest that Toronto-based Nelson has forged with U.S. companies trying to navigate the Canadian market, which has 35 million citizens and 5 million students.

Canada’s education market has many similarities to the U.S., which can make it appealing to foreign publishers and content providers. It’s predominantly English speaking, and many of the demands for curriculum, professional development, and other products are fairly similar.

Three-quarters of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border. And 85 percent of Canadian students are enrolled in schools in the country’s four most populous provinces—Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

But there are also big challenges for foreign companies.

Many of Canada’s school districts are spread across a vast, remote area that can be challenging for education companies–including those based in the U.S. and other markets–to serve.

Recent changes in Canada’s copyright laws have given schools much more of a right to copy material without permission or paying royalties to publishers–a setback for those companies. And Canada has stricter regulations on e-mail marketing of products to schools. (See our recent story in EdWeek Market Brief on the opportunities and barriers that education companies see in Canada’s market.)

Over roughly the past year, Nelson has moved aggressively in marketing its knowledge of the Canadian market to help foreign education providers establish a beachhead there.

Since September of last year, Nelson has forged partnership with at least 18 different companies to help them with sales, distribution, and marketing across Canada, said Steve Brown, Nelson’s president and CEO, in an interview.

The U.S.-based companies enlisting Nelson’s help so far have included myON, a provider of literacy products; DreamBox Learning, an online math provider; Solution Tree, a professional development company; and Shell Education, a producer of classroom materials.

Nelson officials also said they’ve partnered with education providers from the United Kingdom and Australia that are trying to work in Canada.

Brown told Marketplace K-12 that Nelson will use its on-the-ground know-how to help HMH make inroads in Canada, too, by offering sales, distribution, and marketing.

“We have the ability to touch many areas of Canada,” Brown said. “It gives [HMH] greater reach and depth than they could access otherwise.”

Nelson has “the largest sales force, bar none,” in Canada’s education publishing market, he added.

Brown said that his publishing company had done extensive research to make sure that its products and HMH’s complimented each other, and weren’t competing for buyers.

HMH officials said the arrangement would help the company sell products across grades K-12, for both print and digital content.

“This distribution agreement ensures Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has access to the depth of resources that Nelson offers, including their strong sales and marketing capabilities,” said Sam Bonfante, head of international for HHM.

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