Book sales in Italy increase by 44% in first 6 months of 2021

Italian book sales increase in first 6 months of the year

Culture News

Results of the Aie-NielsenIQ survey show book sales rose by 44% in the first six months of the year. Some 15 million more copies sold through Italian trade channels than the same period last year.

From January 4 to June 20, the Aie-NielsenIQ survey said, proceeds from book sales were up by more than €207million, an increase of 42%.

The overall value of the book market in the first six months of the year was €698 million.

“The book is alive and well”

“The book is alive and well” says Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the AIE, the Italian publishers’ association. Excellent data, not only compared to an anomalous year like 2020, with bookstores closing during the first lockdown and the blocking of new releases, but compared to a “normal” year like 2019.

For the period January 4 – June 20,  trade channels (i.e. in bookstores, online and physical, and in large-scale distribution, excluding school, ebooks and audiobooks) sold as many as 15 million copies of printed books. That is an increase of 44% in comparison to 2020.

Chart: Increase in sales value by sales channel (l) and macro-genre (r)

Even more important is comparison to 2019 – 11 million more copies of books were sold (+ 31%). Sales generated for the supply chain over 207 million euros more than in 2020 (+ 42%) and 156 million more than in 2019 (+ 28%). This brings the book market of these first six months to an overall value of €698million.

“The results we are seeing are not accidental at all” added Levi “instead reward the commitment of publishers and all the other subjects in the book supply chain who have continued to invest and innovate even in the most difficult months of the pandemic. And reward government and parliament that safeguarded the sector. First of all, by allowing bookstores to open during lockdown periods”.

The 18App effect

The 18App in particular contributed to the growth in sales. In the first two months of 2021, purchasers spent €75million more in bookstores than the previous year. The effect, possibly, of the lack of other cultural options available (concerts, museums, etc.) due to the pandemic and closures. Yet, it is a signal that targeted support measures can really help to encourage reading and creating a habit that could consolidate over time.

Another positive note is the growth of the bookstore channel, both independent and chain, which reached €332.9million. Online book sales are now worth almost half of the market: it stands at €327.9 million in 2021 (47% of the market) compared to €184.6 million in 2019.

Comics and the “Dante effect”

All genres and sectors are growing uniformly. There are some predictable peaks and others indicating or consolidating a cultural change.

Books on games and free time quadrupled their sales (+ 302%). Sales of comics, manga but also graphic novels, tripled (+ 214%) and are now mainstream rather than a niche sector.

Chart: Increase in sales for different genres

Literary criticism is booming due to the success of the essays on Dante (+ 94%) in the year of the 700th anniversary. Plus, more biographies and autobiographies are being read (+ 85%).

Keeping bookstores open helped the sector

book sales increase
Keeping bookstores open recognised their social value

Commenting on the positive data on the book supply, La Repubblica reported Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini as saying, “Contrary to what happened in other European countries, in Italy, in the most acute phase of the pandemic, people have rediscovered today’s reading and data confirm that there is still room for growth”.

Franceschini adds, “The ministry did not fail its commitment in favour of the publishing sector with a series of extraordinary support measures and a careful policy of refreshments. Among the regulations passed, I believe that from a symbolic point of view, the most significant was the decision to keep the bookstores open also in the red areas, thus recognising their social value.

“The rule that obliges libraries to buy books from local bookstores is also fundamental. It has set in motion a virtuous circle that has increased the book heritage of libraries, supported bookstores and promoted reading. We are now working to make this rule permanent. To give the entire book chain a system law capable of supporting all sectors.”

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