John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has announced its plan to acquire U.K.-based Blackwell Publishing for about USD 1 billion, according to Business Week and other sources. The deal is less than 3x Blackwell's annual turnover, not a disastrous price but certainly one that reflects the difficulties of scholarly and academic publishers in a marketplace that is growing leery of print assets as a foundation of future profits. To compete effectively, these publishers require the scale of inventory and finances necessary to justify sophisticated electronic publishing and ecommerce capabilities. The combination of Wiley and Blackwell will create a publishing company with a global scale similar to that of rivals such as Elsevier that are moving aggressively into electronic markets.
John Wiley is a thought leader in its own right in electronic publishing. It has converted its corporate portal into a highly browseable ecommerce destination for book buyers and its Interscience portal for journals provides easy browsing of both scientific book, reference and journals content. Wiley's aggressive work with partners such as Knovel to repackage reference content into highly usable subscription assets also bodes well for Blackwell content needing to find its way into more valuable contexts.
While consolidation is not always good for institutions seeking competitive content pricing in this instance the likely entity emerging from this acquisition is going to provide a more global-worthy competitive force in scholarly publishing that is likely to provide a healthy survivor in those markets rather than resources struggling to meet their requirements. Congratulations to both of these companies for combining two healthy efforts into a whole that's likely to be far greater than the sum of its parts.