Textbook Publishers Prep For The E-Future

Friday, January 27, 2012

For most of the past six months, Vicky Shen, an editor at textbook publisher Pearson Education in Boston, has been living with a secret.

Just a few blocks away in the Back Bay, Bethlam Forsa, executive vice president of global product development at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Inc. was working on the same undercover project.

Both were preparing electronic editions for last week’s launch of an initiative from Apple Inc. to put textbooks on its iPad tablets. In a recent biography, the computer maker’s cofounder Steve Jobs said the textbook business was “ripe for destruction,’’ but it turns out Apple wants Pearson and Houghton to be partners, not casualties of technology.

“Apple knows that to make this textbook project work they need the publishers,’’ said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge. “Apple learned that with iTunes and the recording companies.’’

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