Wiley doubles down on OA by acquiring Hindawi

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. doubled down on its commitment to Open Access when, on 5 January 2021, it announced the acquisition of Hindawi Limited, one of the world's fastest growing OA scientific research publishers, for a total purchase price of $298 million. This is not a total surprise, as the companies have been publishing partners since 2016 and the OA movement has been growing in momentum. Wiley has a track record of recent acquisitions in the technology space, including zyBooks, Knewton Alta, and Atypon.

The acquisition adds quality, scale and growth to Wiley’s open access publishing program and increases its presence in the Chinese market. Over 65% of authors in Hindawi journals live and work in China. Hindawi, privately held and headquartered in London, has a robust portfolio of over 200 peer-reviewed scientific, technical, and medical journals, a highly efficient publishing platform, and a low-cost infrastructure. It has played a critical role in advancing gold open access, the OA model in which validated articles are made immediately available for reading and re-use following the payment of a publication fee.

According to the press release, this "doubles Wiley’s gold (pure) OA journal portfolio and will increase author retention by giving researchers more options to publish within Wiley titles. Its cutting-edge technology combined with Wiley’s innovative platforms and services will enhance the publishing experience for authors, editors, and reviewers, while expanding the platform and service offerings that Wiley provides to its network of society and publishing partners. Hindawi strengthens Wiley’s growing position in the global research industry, particularly in China—the world’s fast-growing research market."

Looking at the money side of the acquisition, Hindawi is projected to generate approximately $40 million in revenue with year over year growth of 50% for the fiscal year that ended December 31, 2020. That's a nice chunk of change.

Interviewed by Ann Michaels in Scholarly Kitchen, Judy Verses, EVP, Wiley Research, commented, "Together we can do more. We can drive more value for researchers and take research communication to a new plateau in terms of author experience and research impact."

Liz Ferguson, VP, Open Research, Wiley Research, added some practical details. "Right now, Hindawi’s journals will continue to be hosted on their platform under the Hindawi brand, and Wiley OA journals will remain on Wiley platforms under the Wiley brand, so that we ensure we maintain continuity of experience and journal recognition for authors and others in the near term." However, Hindawi titles will not be included in Wiley transitional agreements but will continue to work with OA Switchboard. She also noted that the current CEO of Hindawi, Paul Peters, and his team will join Wiley Research.

Jay Flynn, SVP and chief product officer at Wiley, said in an interview with Publishing Perspectives Porter Anderson, that the acquisition signals Wiley's commitment to OA and open science, particularly in the Covid-19 era.

As with any acquisitions, some kinks will need to be ironed out, some policies and procedures standardized. As Verses and Ferguson note, Wiley doesn't, at least at this point in time, anticipate integrating Hindawi's technology with Atypon's or Wiley's platforms. The platforms are different, in that Hindawi is strictly OA while Wiley supports hybrid journals. Differences also exist regarding publishing policies, such as waivers. Wiley is also talking with Hindawi's publishing partners about privacy and confidentiality.

Wiley gained a significant competitive edge by acquiring Hindawi. It now controls well over half of the world's academic and scholarly journal articles, according to Flynn. This consolidation is potentially worrisome for libraries, as it strengthens the role of commercial publishers in scientific, scholarly communication.