It’s Academic – Scholarly Journals are Big Business – May 2014 M&A Activity
Digital content platforms attracted financial and strategic buyers last month, as increasingly sophisticated online systems drive information to centralized providers that automate the design, hosting and distribution of content. That content may or may not be printed, and often times will be printed only on-demand as the final consumer sees fit for their needs.
Academic journals caught the interest of private equity investor Accel-KKR, which acquired a majority interest in HighWire Press. HighWire, formerly a venture of Stanford University, has been spun off and launched into the competitive world of PE-backed companies. HighWire provides an open electronic platform for universities and other publishers of scholarly journals to develop and host their academic journals. Long noted for high page counts and short runs, academic journals were a natural and early adopter of online publishing. Notably, there is no actual printing press at HighWire Press and the content managed on its platform is delivered in digital form.
Across the country at another august institution, Princeton University, the ripple effect is being felt, with the announcement last month that the California Princeton Fulfillment Services, publisher and distributor of about 340 books for Princeton University, will be winding down and closing by this time next year. As the investment in digital publishing platforms continues to improve the management and delivery of online content, Princeton University Press has decided to outsource the hosting and fulfillment of publications to Perseus Distribution Services. Perseus boasts its own digital distribution services, linked to short run and print-on-demand partners, as well as over a million square feet for warehousing pre-printed books. The partner in the Princeton operation, The University of California Press, will be moving its digital journal content over to HighWire.
Two trends evident from recent transactions appear unrelated at first, but may in fact be connected, as larger companies invest in sophisticated customer-facing software platforms, and draw business away from the small mom-and-pop shops. Staples, the national chain of office supply retailers, acquired PNI Digital Media, a provider of digital print software that provides easy online ordering of consumer and corporate printed products. This follows on the heels of other recent transactions in the web-to-print space, such as Vistaprint’s acquisition of Pixartprinting last month. Over the past couple months, we have noticed an increase in the number of small local commercial printing and copying centers that filed for liquidation under Chapter 7; we found six that filed in May. This is in addition to an unknown number of small printing company owners that just gave, up, closed the door and walked away without the expense of actually filing bankruptcy. I expect that we’ll see more closures of independent small print/copy shops, driven in part by the increasing ease with which customers can go online and purchase their printing.