With his family in England, headquarters in New Jersey, and offices around the world, Mark Allin is well aware he'll be spending lots of time traveling now that he officially took over as head of John Wiley's professional/trade group August 1. "I'll be racking up the air miles," Allin said in an interview at Wiley's Hoboken, N.J., headquarters. That will be especially true early in his tenure as Allin explained that a priority during his first year as senior v-p, professional/trade, will be to "get around the world" to meet Wiley's customers and authors and to better assess how the worldwide company can better work together. Allin is well versed with Wiley's global capabilities; before his latest appointment, he served as v-p and managing director of Wiley Asia after joining the company in 2000 following Wiley's purchase of Capstone, a company he cofounded.
International expansion is one of Allin's goals, and he sees growth opportunities in a number of countries including China and India, envisioning Wiley's titles in technology and leadership helping to inform those two countries' growing middle class. A number of Wiley's brands travel well abroad, none better than the Dummies series, which has more than 200 million books in print worldwide and is distributed in more than 100 countries. One reason for the Dummies success internationally is that Wiley adapts all of its brands to local needs. "Each country contributes to the development of a series like Dummies," noted Allin. France, for example, was the first country to do a History for Dummies title, a topic since adopted in other places.
As well as many of Wiley's brands sell worldwide, the U.S. is professional/trade's largest market. Allin said he plans no major changes in the formula that has grown the group from 22 people when it was launched in 1985 to over 1,000 in 2010, with revenue of $430 million. Alliances with well-known brands and franchises, financial discipline, focus on its six core areas (business, technology, psychology, architecture, consumer, and education), and innovation will continue to be the hallmarks of the group, Allin promised. "The 25-year history of the group will serve as the foundation for the next 25," he said.
Allin's rise to the top spot marks the first time the professional/trade group has been led by someone other than Stephen Kippur, who retired after 31 years at Wiley, the last 25 as head of professional/trade. In addition to internal growth, the group has grown through three strategic acquisitions overseen by Kippur—Van Nostrand Reinhold (1997), Jossey Bass (1998), and Hungry Minds (2001). "His influence and contributions to the development of P/T stand out as one of the most notable accomplishments in our industry over the last three decades," observed Wiley COO Steve Smith of Kippur's career.
Since Allin's January 1 appointment to succeed Kippur, he has spent his time with Kippur to better understand the group's strategy and to see how the different parts of the business all fit together. His appointment, Allin said, "is about continuity." That doesn't mean the professional/trade group will stay in place, however. Like all publishers, Wiley is dealing with the transition from print to digital. Unlike some other industry members, Allin sees the digital evolution as more opportunity than threat. Wiley will "nurture" its print operations while investing in digital growth opportunities, he said. Allin cited the success Wiley has had with its Frommer's travel line as an indication of how print content can be transformed for the digital world. Frommer's book material is available in a range of apps, forms the basis of custom-publishing projects, is licensed, and forms the core for a successful Web site. "What's been done at Frommer's is applicable to other parts of the business," Allin said.
Professional/trade has developed apps throughout the group, for example, at a variety of price points. "We don't develop apps to be cool," Allin said, but rather because they serve the customer. What Wiley won't do in the technology area, Allin said, "is move faster than our customers."
Allin will be on the lookout for possible acquisitions and adding new brands. The most recent addition to Wiley, Bloomberg Press, put Wiley in conflict with the Authors Guild over contract terms and royalties. Speaking about royalties in general in the digital age, Allin said royalty standards "will continue to evolve. We will re-evaluate things as we talk with our authors."