RR Donnelley Continues Digital Expansion With Purchase Of LibreDigital

Another interesting digital acquisition by R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Co., the Chicago publishing services company that picked up Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz’s Press+ earlier this year. Seeking to cement its 21st century image as a “global provider of integrated communications,” Donnelly is adding LibreDigital, a pioneer in digital publishing and distribution. Update, 11/9/11: According to R.R. Donnelley’s Q3 10-Q, it bought Libre Digital for $19.9 million net of cash acquired of $0.1 million.

In some respects, LibreDigital’s services for publishers in the digital space mirrors what Donnelley traditionally has done in print: digital printing, “warehousing” and distribution. Acquiring LibreDigital gives RRD access to that for its own customers plus presence on smartphones, tablets and e-readers, social commerce, browsing technology, analytics and more.

Among its assets: NewsStand.com, a direct-to-consumer marketplace for newspaper and magazine replicas. NewsStand.com is small compared to competitors like Newspaper Direct, though — much too small for a domain with that kind of potential — and should be an opportunity for Donnelley to exploit.

Founded in 1999, LibreDigital raised more than $31 million from investors including the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) (it produces the NYT digital replica), HarperCollins Publishers, Triangle Peak Partners and Adams Capital Management. Its most recent round was $4 million in January. Some of its opportunities have slipped by or been eclipsed by developments — LibreDigital was an early partner with PlasticLogic and Hearst for e-readers that never made it — but it is on the Nook from Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS).

The news follows another digital addition by a day. Tuesday, RRD announced the acquisition of Sequence Personal Tuesday; the company’s proprietary software allows users to create their “own” publications from publishers’ content and provides direct ad targeting opportunities.

The series of digital moves give Donnelley more ability to move away from the print image, although traditional publishing is still its bread-and-butter. Here’s an example from the LibreDigital release of the way the company wants to be seen now:

CEO Thomas J. Quinlan III: “With services constituting more than 10% of our revenue, robust digital content creation and distribution resources, and capabilities that span the breadth of the supply chain, RR Donnelley (NSDQ: RRD) has completely transcended the role of an ink-on-paper provider.”