In Italy, the book market is doing well. The sector has been scrutinized by the Association of Italian Publishers (AEI), which has published its latest report on the subject. The transalpine publishing market has regained its pre-Covid-19 pandemic health but is doing less well than in 2021. Comics and fiction were the most popular literary genres among Italians.
Sixth in the world and fourth in Europe, the Italian publishing sector represented 3.32 billion euros in turnover in 2022, i.e. -2.3% compared to 2021 (excluding e-books and audiobooks). According to the report, the Old Continent publishing market is worth 35 billion euros, which also places Europeans as leaders in the sector with 59% of the global global market and 6 of the 10 main global publishing groups (RELX Group , Bertelsmann, Pearson, Wolters Kluwer, Hachette Livre, Springer Nature).
The peculiarities of the Italian book market
The book sector is the country’s leading cultural industry. Italians spent €3.429 billion to acquire books in 2021, compared to €2.941 billion for TV subscriptions or €1.800 billion for video games. Data for 2022 is not yet available.
Excluding school books, the Italian book market generated 1.671 billion euros in 2022, i.e. a net growth compared to 2019 (+ 13.1%) but a slight decline compared to 2021 (- 2.3%). In Italy, a book costs on average €14.84, i.e. the same price as in 2021, but a lower cost compared to 2019 (-0.9%). 76,575 new titles appeared in 2022, i.e. 10.5% less than in 2021 but nearly 4% more than in 2019. E-book releases continue to decline with 35,200 new titles in 2022 (-28, 6% compared to 2021 and -27.8% compared to 2019).
books in circulation
It sold 112.6 million books through bookstores, the Internet and mass distribution, a significant increase compared to 2019 (+ 13.3% compared to 2019) but in 2021 Italians were more readers (+2.7 million copies purchased). It should be noted that the bar of €1,500 million in turnover (books, e-books and audiobooks) was exceeded in 2019, a happy phenomenon for the book industry which has persisted ever since.
As for bookstores, their turnover increased by 1% between 2022 and 2021, i.e. a volume of €889 million, but remains far from the level of 2019 (951.7 million euros). On the contrary, online bookstores saw their turnover decrease by 5% compared to 2021, achieving an overall turnover of €705 million. It was 440 million euros in 2019. Sales in supermarkets have continued to decline since 2019, going from 95.2 to 76.9 million euros in turnover in 2022.
Fiction and comics are the big winners in 2022, respectively achieving an increase compared to 2021 of 7% (foreign fiction), 4.9% (Italian fiction) and 8.6% for comics. Trials sold less well (-8.6% compared to 2021). In general, all literary genres sold better than in 2019 (+ 111.3% for comics, + 25.9% for foreign fiction and 14.3% for Italian fiction, 7.1% for nonfiction…).
The outlook for 2023
The AEI warns against the challenges represented by inflation and the weakening of small publishers and independent bookstores which do not benefit from the advantages linked to lower production costs on an industrial scale. Finally, in its conclusions, the organization of Italian publishers also stresses that the general trend of the market is increasingly dependent on the decisions taken by the tenors of the sales sector.