In 1807, 25-year-old Charles Wiley opened a small printing shop at 6 Reade Street in lower Manhattan, initially printing titles for other publishers and eventually adding financing and distribution to his printing skills to become a full-fledge publisher. In 1814, Charles and partner Cornelius Van Winkle formed a printing, publishing, and bookselling company and opened a bookstore that became a gathering place for writers interested in establishing a new American literature. The partnership dissolved six years later, but Charles went on to publish the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Henry Dana, Washington Irving, and many others, as well as scientific, technical, and medical titles that foreshadowed the company's activities later in the century. When Charles died in 1826, his son John took over the family business and for the next 65 years promoted American and European authors and extended the company's offerings in practical and professional topics. In 1834, George Putnam joined the firm as a junior partner and four years later established a branch office in London, the first of its kind for an American publisher.
Shifting the Focus Away from Literature
Wiley and Putnam went their separate ways in 1848, but not before achieving prominence with the works of both American and European authors, including Hans Christian Andersen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Victor Hugo, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe. John gradually shifted his focus away from literature toward scientific, technical, medical, and other types of nonfiction publishing. When his sons became involved in the business (Charles in 1865 and William in 1876), the name was updated to John Wiley & Sons. The firm thrived during the second Industrial Revolution by taking advantage of the tremendous opportunities in science and technology. Over the next several decades, Wiley expanded into electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering; architecture; construction; agriculture; organic, physical, and analytical chemistry; and other fields. By the early 1900s, Wiley was well-established as a leading U.S. publisher in science and technology. The passage of an international copyright law in 1891 mitigated the piracy that had undercut the publishing business throughout the century and readied John's sons and grandson William O. Wiley, who had joined the firm in 1890, for expansion into the global marketplace. They also branched out into the social sciences and business management, disciplines that were becoming increasingly important for students and professionals and, in turn, for Wiley's post-secondary educational publishing business.
Building a Modern Corporation
In 1932, John's great-grandson William Bradford Wiley ("Brad") joined the firm, representing the fifth generation of the family working in the business. The onset of World War II and the postwar boom triggered expansion for Wiley's publishing. Brad took over the leadership of the company in 1956, overseeing the adoption of modern business practices and further expansion. By 1961, Wiley was the fourth-largest publishing house in the U.S. A year later, shares in the company were offered to employees and the public, ending 155 years of private ownership. During the 1960s, subsidiaries were established in London, Australia, India, and Canada, and in subsequent years Wiley extended its global operations to Singapore, Japan, and Germany and set up sales offices on every continent. Meanwhile, Wiley was expanding its post-World War II focus on college textbook publishing, and by the 1980s, textbooks were contributing the largest share of the company's revenue. A sustained effort in knowledge-based trade publishing began in 1977 with the purchase of Ronald Press, which brought a valuable backlist of business and accounting titles.
Expanding Through Acquisitions, Alliances, and Collaborations
As Wiley celebrated its 175th year of publishing in 1982, it expanded into the area of business education and training with the acquisition of Wilson Learning Corporation. The scientific, technical, and medical program grew significantly with the 1989 acquisition of life sciences publisher Alan R. Liss, Inc., and again in 1996 with the acquisition of VCH, publishing partner of the German Chemical Society. Various smaller acquisitions added to growth through the 1990s, supplemented by alliances, organic growth, technology investments, and divestiture of underperforming programs to sharpen the company's focus and improve profitability. The arrival of the Internet eventually allowed the company to offer the full range of Wiley's products, brands, and services on the Web, along with an online platform for scientific, technical, medical, and professional content, now called Wiley Online Library.
From there, several important acquisitions continued to strengthen the company's core businesses:
- Pearson Education's college textbooks and instructional packages in several subjects
- Jossey-Bass, a publisher of books and journals for professionals and executives in business, psychology, education, and health management
- J.K. Lasser tax and financial guides to enhance Wiley's already strong presence in the tax and financial planning market
- Hungry Minds, which brought a portfolio of high-profile brands, including the For Dummies series, Webster's New World™ dictionaries, CliffsNotes™ study guides, Frommer's™ travel guides, and Betty Crocker® and Weight Watchers® cookbooks
- Several smaller acquisitions, including Sybex, a global publisher of books and software for information technology professionals, and InfoPOEMs, a provider of evidence-based medicine content.
Then, in 2007, came the acquisition of U.K.-based Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd., one of the world's foremost academic and professional publishers, making it the largest acquisition in the company's history. Blackwell's publishing program was merged with Wiley's global scientific, technical, and medical business to form what is now called Global Research, the largest of Wiley's three core businesses and the world's leading publishing partner for professional and scholarly societies, with more than 800 such relationships in place. The business also partners with the Cochrane Collaboration to publish the Cochrane Library of evidence-based medicine databases.
In recent years, Wiley has focused its activities increasingly on the areas of research, learning, and professional practice, with its three core businesses now named Global Research, Professional Development, and Global Education. The strategy has been supported by additional acquisitions and partnerships and the divestiture of most of its consumer brands, with the notable exception of For Dummies.
Wiley has played a leading role in important industry initiatives such as CrossRef, a collaborative venture providing key services such as online reference citation linkage in journals and other scholarly content. Wiley is also involved in the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) initiative, a collaborative effort to provide a unique identifier for each contributor to the scholarly literature.
Wiley is a founding member of the U.N.-backed HINARI, AGORA, and OARE initiatives (collectively known as Research4Life), which make online scientific content available free or at nominal cost to researchers in developing countries, as well as a founding partner in the Cochrane Collaboration's Evidence Aid project, providing evidence on interventions in the aftermath of natural disasters and large-scale health emergencies.
Creating Global Centers of Excellence
Since the 1990s, Wiley has seen vigorous growth and dramatic change, as the company moves purposefully toward its vision of giving customers the information they want, in the form they want, whenever they want it. In financial terms, revenue increased from less than $300 million in FY1990 to $1.8 billion in FY2013.
Over the past decade, Asia has emerged as both a dynamic market and a vital source of Wiley content. China is now the second-largest consumer of Wiley Online Library content, as well as the second-largest source of articles for Global Research journals. India, a well-established market for Wiley, is also developing into an important source of content.
In the Middle East, Wiley opened an office in Dubai in 2010 to take advantage of the region's rapid growth of higher education opportunities; in 2012, Wiley established Brasil Editora LTDA, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a global company, Wiley is able to create consolidated centers of excellence at locations sited strategically around the world and, in turn, achieve cost savings and efficiencies that make room for ongoing investments to develop the business.
Honoring the Company and Its Authors
Wiley has been honored frequently for its sustained financial success and exceptional culture. Accolades include Forbes magazine's list of the "400 Best Big Companies in America," Book Business magazine's citation of Wiley as "One of the 20 Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For," and Standard and Poor's 2006 addition of Wiley to its MidCap 400 Index. In addition, Fortune magazine named Wiley one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For," and Wiley Australia has received the Australian government's "Employer of Choice for Women" citation every year since its inception in 2001. Wiley has also appeared on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplaces for Commuters" list.
Wiley authors have received numerous honors, and Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in every Nobel prize category: Literature, Economics, Physiology/Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace.
For over 200 years, Wiley has evolved to meet the needs of its customers — from letterpress pamphlets to digital apps and interactive online learning tools. The Wiley family's involvement in the business continues, now into the seventh generation. Given Wiley's financial stability, experienced leadership team, and talented workforce, the years ahead promise to bring exciting opportunities for continued growth and prosperity.
The company may be a far cry from Charles Wiley's small Manhattan printing shop, but its emphasis on quality and commitment to customers haven't changed since 1807.