Houghton Mifflin Co. on Nov. 29 agreed to a nearly $1.8 billion buyout that will pair a venerable name in educational textbook publishing with Riverdeep Inc., a smaller firm whose complementary strength is in educational software.

By joining Houghton Mifflin's paper-and-ink business with Riverdeep's core strength in educational software, the newly formed venture hopes to better position itself against larger rivals Pearson PLC, McGraw-Hill Cos., and Harcourt Education.

The deal is the second significant merger in just over a month that is sure to affect the educational software market. In...

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