The 40th Mauri School in Venice: ‘Interpreting Change’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri ‘school of booksellers’ returns to Venice, with a half-day conference streamed on January 27.

San Giorgio Maggiore from the Riva degli Schiavoni, December 14, 2022, site of the upcoming 40th Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri, ‘a school of booksellers.’ Image – Getty iStockphoto: Chicco Dodi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

The Mauri School’s 40th Year
A week after the news of publisher Achille Mauri’s death, organizers speak of the shock that has accompanied their preparations for next week’s Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri, the “school of booksellers” which on Tuesday (January 24) will inaugurate its 40th edition, a four-day sequence of events.

On Friday, January 27, the program changes from its training-days mode to a conference context, and the international book publishing community is invited to watch this half-day program through a live stream from San Giorgio, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CET (8:30 to 11:30 a.m. GMT). Registration, free of charge, is available here. We have more information on this for you below.

Mauri was 83, and his decline was rapid, leaving the team coping both with event arrangements and what they quietly call “the surprise.” The loss of the personality whose insights and charm welcomed delegates in the past has injected an element of somber reflection into #UEM40 and its return–after two years of digital conference sessions–to Venice’s Fondazione Giorgio Cini in the former San Giorgio Monastery.

Nana Lohrengal

The overarching theme of the coming events, however—Leggere il cambiamento, “Interpreting Change”—fits well into a contemplative mode.

The still ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted the program’s usual journey to Venice, of course hit Italy very hard in 2020, making that market the first epicenter outside China to experience the full brunt of a pathogen before vaccines were available.

The country, as of January 12 this year, had lost a total 185,993 citizens to COVID, and on the date of its highest daily death toll, December 3, 2020, 993 patients would die. On the other hand, by this month, some 84 percent of the Italian population had been vaccinated, according to Statista’s research—a rate of vaccination that many other international publishing markets can only envy.

The Four-Day #UEM40 Plan

On a training day during an earlier iteration of the Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri in Venice. Image: UEM, Yuma Martellanz

The program is organized by the Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri Foundation under secretary-general Nana Lohrengal‘s guidance, with the contribution of Messaggerie Italiane and Messaggerie Libri, in partnership with the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) and CEPELL (the Center for the Promotion of Books and Reading).

James Daunt

There are many elements of change to discuss, of course, since the Scuola per Librai could be seated again in Venice. But one of the most compelling and pervasive in the discussions is expected to be a phenomenon described this way in last year’s digital round table by James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones and Daunt books in the United Kingdom, and CEO of an expanding Barnes & Noble in the States.

“The thrilling, I mean, frankly, completely thrilling thing that has happened,” Daunt said to the #UEM39 audience last year—”is that young people, more than any other part of our society, have embraced books.”

Stefano Mauri

The program’s first three days are for the invited attendees of the physical event, with Tuesday being an inaugural afternoon. On that day, Ricardo Franco Levi, now both AIE’s president and that of the Federation of European Publishers, will speak alongside Paolo Ambrosini of the Italian Booksellers Association.

Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol (GeMS) president and CEO Stefano Mauri will speak about the upcoming program, as will Alberto Ottieri of Messaggerie Italiane and Emmelibri.

Alberto Otierri

On January 25 and 26, the two training days, the assembly will take up the topic of “The Economic and Financial Management of a Bookstore” on the Wednesday, and then “Customer Centricity” as its key theme on the Thursday—during which Publishing Perspectives will moderate a talk with Daunt and Thalia’s Michael Busch from Germany, looking at outcomes and observations from 2022 and at that concept of a focus on consumers.

Friday’s Conference Day, January 27

Round table speakers in the January 27 Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri conference are, clockwise from upper left: Michael Busch; James Daunt; Sonia Draga; Madeline McIntosh; Stefano Mauri; and Gilles Haéri

As the program changes to its half-day conference agenda on January 27, the program in the Salone degli Arazzi has this outline.

Ricardo Franco Levi

You’ll note that it includes a presentation of industry statistics with Levi and Angelo Tantazzi. We have today a quick look at several points of interest to be taken up during that presentation:

  • In 2022, the Italian market saw fiction and nonfiction decrease in sales revenues by 2.3 percent in comparison to 2021. When viewed against 2019, however, these combined sectors grew by 13.1 percent.
  • By unit volume, there was a decline of 2.4 percent in comparison to 2021 and a similar gain, 13.3 percent, over 2019.

Included in the program on January 27

9.30 a.m. Economic scenarios of the book market, an introduction by Alberto Ottieri with:

  • Forecast for 2023: How will Italian Households Manage Their Expenditures?
    Angelo Tantazzi, Prometeia
  • The European Book Market
    Riccardo Franco Levi, Italian Publishers Association and Federation of European Publishers

10.20 a.m. the presentations of the Premio per Librai Luciano e Silvana Mauri (17th edition) and the Nick Perren Job Grant (4th edition)

10.40 a.m. Coffee break

11.00 a.m. Round Table: The Generational Shift in the Readership

The round table is moderated by Publishing Perspectives.

12.30 a.m. On Books and Memory, a closing comment from Claudio Magris

Again, the link for registration for the live stream, free of charge, is here.

The late Achille Mauri at the Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri school, 2019. With him is Cristina Prasso, the editorial director at Casa Editrice Nord. Image: UEM, Yuma Martellanz

More from Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its book publishing industry is here. More on Stefano Mauri is here, more on Ricardo Franco Levi is here, more on James Daunt is here, more on Thalia is here, more on Penguin Random House is here, more on bookselling is here and more from us on the Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri is here. More from us on the impact of the still ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic–which makes this the first time in three years the UEM program has been able to take up its usual seat in Venice–is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.