Italy’s Messaggerie-Libraccio Alliance: A Shift in Ownership

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

During ‘Bologna week,’ Publishing Perspectives learned that the Italian distributor Emmelibri-Messaggerie and the bookstore chain Libraccio are engaged in a merger.

An excerpt from a photo from the founding of ‘Il Libraccio’ in which the company’s roots in school textbooks are evident. Image: DMB, Libraccio.it

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

Ottieri: ‘Professional Collaboration and Friendship’
As many Publishing Perspectives readers know, Libraccio is Italy’s leading chain of independent bookstores, today with 61 stores operating in 34 cities and seven regions.

Near the end of this busy week, when so much attention has been focused on the international aspects of the 61st edition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair and its 10-percent gain in professional trade-visitor attendance, it has been learned that Italy’s distribution powerhouse Emmelibri-Messaggerie has increased its ownership in Libraccio’s holding company, DMB, to secure a 51-percent majority stake, subject to approval by the Italian Competition Authority.

Behind this news lies a 30-year relationship between Libraccio and Emmelibri-Messaggerie that can be traced back to 1994 and the opening of a bookstore on the Via Nazionale in Rome.

The intent of Emmelibri-Messaggerie with this move, the company says, is to diversify its business in the school-textbook sector, an area in which Libraccio has been especially effective. Emmelibri-Messaggerie currently reaches more than 5,000 sales outlets with the work of some 800 publishers and as many as 230,000 titles.

“We have the opportunity to develop together the highly successful Libraccio chain of bookstores even more … an important diversification for us.”Alberto Ottieri, Emmelibri Messaggerie

And for Libraccio, its own growth is a key motivator, as it now has more than 500 employees across those 61 stores and can benefit from its relation to the distribution prominence of Emmelibri-Messaggerie.

Our conversations with a person close to the negotiations of the new arrangement suggest that Libraccio’s strength lies in a tradition of working its way deep into a community, both in key urban locations and in less populated, relatively outlying areas. In this case, we’re told, this is accomplished not least by Libraccio making itself a center of second-hand books and committing to a strong relationship with younger readers—leveraging those textbooks, school supplies, alert customer service, and an active program of local cultural events.

At the center of this success is what company officials say is an agile inventory that presents consumers with “a wide assortment of new and used books of all genres” that goes beyond the textbook heart of the operation and rewards the loyalty of the community around each store. This, of course, is the neighborhood connection that’s recognized in so many international markets today as the hallmark of a successful brick-and-mortar bookstore’s appeal.

And that success is revealed in the figures: The Libraccio Group in 2023 logged revenues of more than €110 million (US$117.5 million).

Scioscia: ‘A Shared Business Ethic’

Libraccio shoppers in an archival photo. Image: DMB, Libraccio.it

In commenting on the Emmelibri-Messaggerie / Libraccio news, Alberto Ottieri, the president and CEO of Emmelibri-Messaggerie, says, “Messaggerie is happy to strengthen its alliance with Libraccio partners after 30 years of established professional collaboration and friendship.

Alberto Ottieri

“We have the opportunity to develop together the highly successful Libraccio chain of bookstores even more in the field of schooling and beyond, an important diversification for us.”

What’s more, Libraccio knows Emmelibri as a partner in the Stereo Online JV e-commerce system for books. That’s a concessionary company of Libraccio.it, which counts among its partners Feltrinelli (70 percent) and Emmelibri (27 percent), with Libraccio at 3 percent.

Edoardo Scioscia

Edoardo Scioscia, the president of DMB, the parent company of Libraccio, says, “The alliance with Emmelibri-Messaggerie is the natural evolution of many years of close collaboration, professional experience, esteem, and respect.

“[It represents] and a shared business ethic that puts books as an economic and cultural product at the center, an alliance that will allow Libraccio to continue with greater vigor its development and mission of disseminating publishing content with sustainability goals.”

Background Notes on the Companies

Bookselling inside a makeshift store in Libraccio’s early history at Piazza della Vetra. Image: DMB, Libraccio.it

Libraccio’s parent, DMB, is based in Monza.

Il Libraccio (Bookboy) was founded in 1979 in Milan—just southwest of Monza—with its historic first store on the Via Corsico, a location that’s still standing. Four students who had met at flea markets in Piazza della Vetra created the company, which prides itself today on 45 years of growth.

“The alliance with Emmelibri Messaggerie … a natural evolution of many years of close collaboration, professional experience, esteem, and respect.”Edoardo Scioscia, DMB

Emmelibri-Messaggerie is wholly owned by Messaggerie Italiane, and its activities are sorted under various brands. It coordinates distribution (Messaggerie Libri), commerce (Fastbook, Opportunity GDO, Centro Libri Brescia), and services to publishers and booksellers (Emmepromozione, Informazioni Editoriali, Alcor, Lampi di Stampa, as well as the 160 UBIK franchised bookstores).

The earliest elements of its own corporate history—activities of companies that would become forerunners or parts of the modern corporation—can be traced back to 1914. The original business model has evolved over time to make the company a major book distribution group today reaching €655 million in consolidated sales in 2023 (US$697.5 million).

Libraccio was created by four students who met in the late 1970s in flea markets, here seen setting up a book sale in Piazza della Vetra, Milan. Image: DMB, Libraccio.it

There are many more fine documentary photos from the early activities of the “bookboys” of Il Libraccio in an excellent Fotostoria here.


More from Publishing Perspectives on mergers and acquisitions is here, more on bookselling is here, more on bookstores is here, more on Italy and the Italian market is here, more on Guest of Honor Italy at Frankfurter Buchmesse this year is here, and more on the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 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.com, 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.