Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd.

9600 Garsington Road
United Kingdom

Company Perspectives

Blackwell Publishing Mission Statement: Partnerships in learning, research and professional practice.

Our mission is to provide an expert publishing service to other experts--authors, editors, librarians, researchers, teachers and their students, societies and professionals--enabling them to do their jobs better.

History of Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd. is the world's leading independent and privately owned publisher of scholarly journals and books. The Oxford, England based company publishes more than 800 journals spanning the medical, academic, scientific, and professional fields. Nearly half of the company's journal list is published in partnership with more than 650 academic and professional societies around the world. The company also owns its own list of journals, and continues to acquire new titles from other commercial publishers and from small presses. In addition to journal publishing, Blackwell publishes more than 600 new books per year, and maintains a back list of some 4,500 books. Blackwell began as one of Oxford's most renowned bookstores. Throughout the 20th century, Blackwell continued to operate a chain of largely university and academic-oriented bookstores in the United Kingdom. In the mid-2000s the company adopted a new strategy focusing on its publishing wing; it began selling off its retail operations in 2005. The company continues to expand its reach, however, through the development of Blackwell Synergy, which provides online, full-text access to the company's journal list. The company also operates a number of research portal web sites, focusing on such specialties as literature, history, linguistics and gastroenterology. Blackwell maintains a global presence, with subsidiaries and offices in the United States, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Japan, China, and, since October 2005, in Singapore. Blackwell is a privately owned company; nearly all of the company's shares are held by the founding Blackwell family.

Famed Bookstore in the 19th Century

The Blackwell family's involvement in England's book selling and publishing trades began in the mid-19th century, when Benjamin Harris Blackwell first began selling books in Oxford in 1846. Blackwell's son, Benjamin Henry Blackwell, later established his own bookshop in Oxford in 1879. That store soon became an Oxford landmark, and gained a global reputation as being one of the world's finest bookstores. B.H. Blackwell Booksellers, as the store became known, entered the publishing side before the end of the century with the production of Mensae Secundae, written by H.C. Beeching and published in 1897.

Blackwell continued to add new titles into the new century. While Benjamin Blackwell focused on operating the book store, he turned to son Basil H. Blackwell to develop the family's publishing operation. The younger Blackwell accordingly started his career at the Oxford University Press, based in London. By 1913, however, Basil Blackwell had gained sufficient experience to return to Oxford and take over the family's publishing business. Exempted from military service during World War I because of poor eyesight, Basil Blackwell focused his efforts on publishing, while his father took care of the family's thriving book selling business.

Blackwell's publishing interests led him to form a partnership in 1920 with Bernard Newdigate and others in order to take over the Shakespeare Head Press in Stratford-upon-Avon, founded in 1904. Newdigate had already established a reputation as one of England's most distinguished printers and typesetters, a position he confirmed at the Shakespeare Head Press. The collaboration between Blackwell and Newdigate continued for more than two decades. In the meantime, Blackwell launched another publishing business, forming a partnership with Adrian Mott in 1922. Blackwell & Mott Limited, as the new company was called, formed one of the cornerstones of the later Blackwell Publishing Limited. Through the 1920s, Blackwell & Mott established itself as a prominent literary house, publishing such authors as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Graham Greene.

The death of Benjamin Blackwell in 1924 forced Basil Blackwell to place his publishing interests on the back burner as he took over the leadership of the family bookselling operation. Blackwell nonetheless remained active in publishing, and in 1929 moved the Shakespeare Head Press to Oxford. That house remained in operation until 1942. By then, Blackwell had already expanded into what later became the group's main business focus, the publication of scientific and scholarly works.

In 1939, Blackwell founded Blackwell Scientific Publications (BSP). That business initially focused on publishing books for the medical market. By the early 1950s, BSP had expanded its range to include the distribution of medical textbooks brought in from the United States and Canada. Within a few years, BSP had established itself as a small but respected medical publisher, with sales of £23,000 per year.

Scholarly Publishing: 1950-60

The arrival of Richard Blackwell, son of Basil Blackwell, into the company in the early 1950s marked the beginning of a new era for Blackwell. The younger Blackwell was credited with transforming the company from a small family business into one of the world's pre-eminent academic publishers. Another major figure in the company's success was Denmark native Per Saugman, who was appointed the managing director of BSP in 1954. Saugman led Blackwell's foray into the publishing of scholarly journals, with the launch of the British Journal of Haematology. The Blackwell family also confirmed its position as a publisher of scholarly works when, in 1953, Basil Blackwell reached an agreement to publish the entire body of work by analytic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Blackwell expanded strongly through the 1960s. The BSP wing of the family's operations established an office in Edinburgh, Scotland. Initially meant to provide support to the company's book publishing operations, the Edinburgh office soon focused on publishing journals, and helped lead Blackwell's extension into biology. By the end of the decade, BSP was already a well-respected journal publisher in the international market. Blackwell itself had developed an international component, acquiring Denmark's Munksgaard, based in Copenhagen. That purchase enabled Blackwell to extend its publication reach into the fields of dermatology, immunology and dentistry, among others. By 1970, Saugman had succeeded in expanding BSP's annual revenues to more than £1 million.

Blackwell's expansion continued through the 1970s. The company entered Australia, establishing a joint venture through BSP in Melbourne in 1971. The company took full control of its Australian operations in 1984, and used its Melbourne base to expand into Japan, and later into other Asian markets. Blackwell also moved into the North American market, notably through the acquisition of Richard Abel, an important supplier to the library market that had gone bankrupt. That purchase led to the formation of Blackwell North America in 1982. Back at home, Blackwell's book publishing business acquired Martin Robertson. The purchase brought in David Martin as Basil Blackwell Ltd's managing director. Under Martin, that company, which would become Blackwell Publishers in 1991, shifted its primary focus to the academic book market, helping to establish the company as a world leader. In another expansion effort, the company founded University Bookshops, a joint venture with Oxford University, in order to supply academic books to the growing number of new universities in the United Kingdom.

By then, Blackwell's had undergone a changing of the guard, following Richard Blackwell's death in 1980, and Basil Blackwell's death in 1984. The company remained firmly in the Blackwell family's hands, and members of the family remained active in the company's direction as well. Through the end of the decade, the group's expansion continued, particularly through acquisitions, which permitted the company to enter the French and German markets. Acquisition also allowed Blackwell to broaden its range, as with the purchase of Collins Professional & Technical in 1987, which formed the foundation of BSP's Professional Division.

BSP's entry into the Japanese market came in 1993, with the formation of Blackwell Scientific Publications Asia. In that year, BSP changed its name to Blackwell Science. The company also developed a new subsidiary operation, Blackwell Healthare Communication, which partnered with and targeted the pharmaceutical industry. Blackwell Publishers, in the meantime, had begun increasingly to target the North American market, in an effort to establish itself as a world leader in a number of publishing segments. As a result, the company captured the world lead in the social sciences and humanities segments by the middle of the 1990s. In 1999, Blackwell boosted its North American presence through the purchase of Iowa State Press. This purchase helped shift the group's focus, with more than half of its revenues coming from North America by the early 2000s.

International Leader in the New Century

Blackwell had in the meantime begun to explore new horizons, and especially the growing Internet market. In 1999, the company launched its own online effort, Blackwell Synergy, providing online access to the full text of its journals. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Blackwell also moved to increase its portfolio of titles; by the middle of the 2000s, the company more than doubled its title list, topping 800 in 2006. A major part of this effort came through partnerships with small university presses or private publishers which turned over the publication of their journals to Blackwell. At the same time, Blackwell continued to acquire other publishers, including Futura Publishing Company and its 42 journals, purchased in 2002.

Until the early 2000s, Blackwell Publishers and Blackwell Science had operated as separate companies under the Blackwell family's control. In 2001, however, the two companies were merged under a single holding company, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. The move seemed to spark a family feud, as members of the Blackwell family began to disagree about the company's direction and even found themselves faced with a hostile takeover offer. The company remained in the Blackwell family's control, however, and remained committed to its status as a private company.

Into the mid-2000s, Blackwell adapted its strategy to the shifting global market. The company announced its decision to sell off many of its retail holdings, which by then numbered some 50 stores. The first store sell off was completed in the first half of 2005.

Blackwell set its sights on expanding its publishing presence in the booming Asian market. The company opened a new office in Shanghai, China, in 2004. The October of the following year, Blackwell expanded its regional presence with the opening of a new subsidiary in Singapore. These efforts quickly paid off, and by the beginning of 2006, Blackwell could already boast a portfolio of more than 100 journal titles in the Asian market. In early 2006 the company announced it expected to add as many as 60 new titles in the year to come, boosting its total to more than 800. From a small bookstore in Oxford, the Blackwell name had grown into the world's leading international society journal publisher.

Principal Subsidiaries

Blackwell Asia (Japan); Blackwell Futura (United States); Blackwell Munksgaard (Denmark); Blackwell Publishing Asia (Australia); Blackwell Publishing Inc. (United States); Blackwell Publishing Ltd.; Blackwell Publishing Professional (United States); Blackwell Publishing Services Singapore PTE Ltd.; Blackwell Publishing Shanghai (PRC); Blackwell Verlag (Germany).

Principal Competitors

ABC Inc.; Bertelsmann AG; Bio-It World Inc.; VNU Business Media Europe Ltd.; Reed Elsevier N.V.; Quebecor Inc.; Recruit Company Ltd.; R.R. Donnelley and Sons Co.; Wolters Kluwer N.V.


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