Wrox is dead, long live Wrox

A number of people have expressed surprise to me that Wrox is out of business.  Here’s the scoop.

Wrox was owned by a company called Peer, which also owned Friends Of Ed, Glasshaus, and a number of other small businesses in the “developer education” field.

Peer made a big mistake:  they failed to time the end of the dot com bubble economy.  They ended up with massive overproduction of educational materials for developers that suddenly were not sellable. Returns from bookstores were large, and they ended up in big financial trouble.  They managed to keep the company afloat for a few more months, but were eventually unable to get new loans to service the interest on their old loans, which is by definition bankruptcy.

All of this happened very suddenly.  I was actually in the process of writing content for their web site and tech reviewing books up to the day before they announced their insolvency.  As it turned out, I was pretty lucky.  At least my book was published and I was actually paid my advance, though I never received any additional royalties.  All in all, Wrox only owed me a few thousand dollars when they went under.  There were plenty of people who had spent months writing books that were ready for the presses — those people never saw a dime for their work.

Wrox had two main creditors. They owed the bank of Scotland a lot of cash, and also had a large loan from AOL-Time-Warner-Netscape against all existing stocks of their books as collateral.   Under British law (similar to American law), all creditors get their collateral when the default happens, and everyone else (employees owed wages, authors owed royalties, and so on) gets in a line as the remaining assets are auctioned off.  Unsecured creditors like yours truly go to the end of the creditor line, and shareholders get in line after them.

Of course, since Peer had millions of pounds in debt and no assets save the existing stocks, all of which went to AOL-Time-Warner-Netscape, I didn’t even bother getting in on the action, as there was no action to get in on.

Since AOL-Time-Warner-Netscape owned the book stocks, one might wonder what happened to the royalties when they sold them.  Well, news flash: royalties are a share of profits, and no one made a profit on the sale of those books.  They were certainly all sold at a loss.

Wiley bought the rights to the dozen or so best sellers and the Wrox web site.  APress bought the rights to everything else, and may bring out APress editions of former Wrox books.

If you want to buy a copy of my book, you are probably out of luck.  I may ask Gary at APress if I can just reformat it into HTML and put it up on the web, if they don’t want to bring out an APress edition.  After all, I didn’t write the thing to make money.

Commentary from 2019:

I found a web site that had two dozen copies of my Wrox book and bought all of them for cheap. Amazon apparently also has some copies left. I gradually gave them away as joke gifts over the next few years and I think I only have one copy left. My mother probably also has a copy somewhere.

Wiley owns the Wrox trademark and continues to publish books under it.

Of course AOL-Time-Warner-Netscape is also long dead. Younger readers may have no clear memory of the bizarre time that was the pre-widespread-broadband internet economy. AOL, a dial-up internet company, managed to get big enough to acquire both Time-Warner and Netscape before flaming out spectacularly when broadband became a thing. AOL was spun back off into its own company in 2009, and was recently acquired by Verizon for reasons which surpass my understanding.


1 thought on “Wrox is dead, long live Wrox

  1. Pingback: Porting old posts, part 4 | Fabulous adventures in coding

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