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Reed Elsevier Sells Bowker to Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, Information Today, Inc.
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Posted On August 24, 2001

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Information Today, Inc. (ITI) announced that it has entered into a joint agreement with Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) to buy R.R. Bowker from Reed Elsevier (R-E). Cambridge is purchasing the major portion of Bowker, and ITI is acquiring the publishing rights to about 10 reference books. The amount of the transaction was not disclosed but sources close to the deal report that several bids were received in the $20 to $30 million range. The deal is due to officially close the last week of August. The acquisition is actually being accomplished in two steps, with the Cambridge Information Group (CIG) first purchasing all of Bowker from Reed Elsevier and forming Bowker, LLC, and then ITI purchasing the directories from Bowker, LLC.

Cambridge is acquiring the entire Books In Print family of products; Ulrich's Periodical Directory; Magazines for Libraries; a number of abstracts and indexes, including British Humanities Index and Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA); a number of journals and newsletters, such as Business Information Review and Journal of Information Science; and miscellaneous other products. In addition, Cambridge retains the contract for Bowker, LLC to have the exclusive right to operate the U.S. office of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) agency.

Andrew (Drew) Meyer, the current CEO of Bowker and Marquis, will be retiring. Michael Cairns, Bowker's former vice president for business development, will be executive vice president and general manager of Bowker, LLC, and will report to Jim McGinty, president of Bethesda, Maryland-based Cambridge Information Group.

Cairns said: "While the divestiture process was disruptive, we are nevertheless having a good year. We have seen great results from our online sales and we have seen significant growth in our CD business mainly as a result of the termination of our long-term partnership with Ingram." Looking to the future he said: "We will move rapidly to expand the services we are able to offer all our primary constituencies—publishers, booksellers, libraries—and in doing so we will continue to leverage the considerable investment made by Reed in the last several years. I am very optimistic about the commitment of our employees and CIG to support our plans for future expansion."

McGinty said: "This is a major strategic step for us. We will immediately integrate the A&I databases into CSA's Internet Database Service. The family of Books In Print services, Ulrich's, and the ISBN agency will operate as a separate entity and remain in its location in New Providence, New Jersey. We plan to give Michael [Cairns] and his team considerable freedom and support in accelerating the electronic delivery of all Bowker services."

The directories purchased by ITI serve the library, publishing, and bookselling markets. The titles include Literary Market Place, International Literary Market Place, American Book Trade Directory, American Library Directory, Annual Register of Grant Support, The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, Library Resource Guide, AV Market Place, Directory of American Research and Technology, and American Men & Women of Science (http://www.bowker.com/bowkerweb/catalog2001/dirtoc.htm).

"Being the new publisher of this line of directories further strengthens our ties with the library community, and it opens a whole set of doors into the publishing world that we never had before," said Tom Hogan, president of Information Today, Inc. "We feel very fortunate that we were able to partner with the people at Cambridge to make this acquisition. Since we already have many working relationships with Cambridge, we were able to enter into some pretty complex negotiations with a sense of trust and openness that saw us through several tough moments. Bob Snyder, Jim McGinty, Mike Jakobowski, and Barbara Inkellis at Cambridge all worked very hard for many weeks to make this whole thing work and should be commended."

Bowker has been headquartered in Reed Elsevier's New Providence, New Jersey, facility. This consists of two buildings that house several Reed Elsevier businesses, including Bowker, Marquis Who's Who, and Martindale-Hubbell. The businesses operated independently but shared some support services in accounting, fulfillment, and production.

ITI is inheriting a fully functioning editorial team that will stay in New Providence, plus staff in a data-collection center in Tampa, Florida, but will need to hire additional people in its Medford, New Jersey, headquarters to handle fulfillment, marketing, and other functions. The directories team will continue to be managed by Owen O'Donnell in New Providence, who will report to Dick Kaser, ITI's recently appointed vice president of content.

The Bowker name is legendary in the library and information industries. Bowker has been a leading source of book, serial, and publishing data for almost 130 years. All of its titles have very strong brand identity and are the leading standard titles in their markets. The company was founded in New York City in 1872, and introduced Publishers Weekly in that year and Library Journal in 1876. The first national guide to available books, the Publishers Trade List Annual, was introduced in 1873, and later evolved into Books In Print in 1948.

Over the years Bowker continued to introduce key directories and in 1968 was selected as the official U.S. ISBN agency. In the last few years, the company began an aggressive migration of its databases over to Oracle software with servers using Microsoft NT and launched a number of Internet products, including booksinprint.com, ulrichsweb.com, globalbooksinprint.com, bookwire.com, and literarymarketplace.com. Bowker products are available in print, on tape, on CD-ROM, and on the Web.

Bowker, LLC will retain the rights to use the Bowker name. ITI will continue to use the Bowker name for the official title of The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac.

The sale of Bowker does not come as a surprise, only the news of the joint buyers. Reed Elsevier had announced early this year that it planned to sell both Bowker and Marquis (see the March 5, 2001 NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17643), noting that they no longer offered a strategic fit within its core businesses. In a related transaction, Marquis and parts of National Register Publishing, another Reed Elsevier company, have just been sold to Commonwealth Business Media (http://www.cbizmedia.com). More information on this deal will follow at a later time.

The Cambridge/ITI two-step deal with Reed Elsevier reminds us of another R-E acquisition: the recently completed deal for R-E to purchase its U.S. rival Harcourt General and then sell a chunk of it to Canadian publishing rival The Thomson Corp. (see the November 6, 2000 NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17713). While the current purchase of Bowker doesn't carry all the baggage of unfair collusion and antitrust implications—or anywhere near the Harcourt price tag of $4.5 billion—it does illustrate the trend toward increasingly complex deals in our current market.

Cambridge (http://www.csa.com) is a privately owned information company located in Bethesda, Maryland, with offices in Hong Kong, France, and the U.K. It has been publishing abstracts and indexes to scientific and technical research literature for over 30 years. The company recently branched out to include coverage in the social sciences and humanities. With an operation that provides support for various library services, such as limiting search results to library holdings, it's now looking more like a one-stop shop for libraries. The purchase of Bowker extends its emphasis to include directory publishing and brings a considerable asset in the Books In Print properties.

Information Today, Inc. (http://www.infotoday.com) is a privately owned company based in Medford, New Jersey. ITI is the publisher of periodicals, books, directories, and online products for the library and information user and professional, and is the publisher of this Web site and its flagship publication, Information Today. The company is also the producer of a number of conferences in the library and information fields. The purchase of the directories nicely complements its existing product line. It also expands its reach in the library and publishing markets and will provide additional opportunities for Internet product development.

According to unnamed sources, the deal encountered last minute delays because of post-Tasini complications. One of the major selling points of Books In Print is that it includes professionally written book reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, supplied by Bowker's former sister company, Cahners Business Information. When doubt was cast as to whether Cahners would continue to provide these, Cambridge delayed the purchase to resolve the issue. Cahners will reportedly take responsibility for obtaining the rights and these will continue to be included in Books In Print.


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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