A small setback in book sales from January to June 2022

Despite a 4.2% drop in book sales in 2022, the Italian industry recorded a gain of 14.7% compared to the same period of 2019.

On the Grand Canal, March 25, in Trieste. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Emmeci

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

“The economic situation is difficult”

AAlthough the Italian book publishing market recorded a decline of 4.2% in book sales and 3.6% in unit volume in the first half of 2022, the comparison with the performance of the first half of 2019 is good, with 14.7% ahead of 2019 in sales and 14.5% ahead of 2019 in unit volume.

Today’s (July 12) report from the Association of Italian Publishers (Association Italiana EditoriAIE), however, includes a caveat from the organization’s president, Ricardo Franco Levi, that the future looks difficult at mid-year due to inflation and ongoing international paper supply problems.

For context, remember that the Italian market is not only led by one of the most proactive publisher associations in the world – with extensive data collection and analysis – but that under Levi’s leadership, its performance of 2021 was the fourth best in Europe, posting a gain of 16 percentage points.

Indeed, it should be noted that last year, almost to the day, the Associazione proudly announced a gain of 42% in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020.

Like many global publishing markets that have been able to find their footing and grow during the first two years of the still ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Italy is working carefully to try to figure out what lies ahead in evolution, uncertain way forward. Indeed, Angelo Amante reports for Reuters Rome today that Italy saw coronavirus cases top 100,000 last week – the first time this level of infection has been seen since February.

Ricardo Franco Levi

Following approval from European Union health authorities, Italy is set to roll out a second COVID-19 booster for all citizens aged 60 and over.

After its record performance in 2021, the Italian book market between January and June this year again bases its calculations on Nielsen data from BookScan.

Its new presentation also offers interesting data from other European countries. In the first half of this year, for example, the Netherlands leads with a gain of 9% compared to the same period in 2021. Norway comes into the middle of the year up 8%, the Finland up 6.7%, Germany up 0.7%, Sweden down 2.8% and France down 3.5%.

Image: Association Italiana Editori

The 4.2% decline in the Italian market, says Levi, “is a decline caused by lower sales in online channels, only partially offset by the recovery of physical bookstores.

“The economic situation is difficult but our publishers, despite the rise in inflation and the persistence of the paper emergency, have not adjusted their prices.”

The IEA report provides us with several targeted findings.

Comics are developing rapidly: Italy’s comic book boom was recorded at 23.7% compared to the same period last year, and a remarkable 245.4% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Foreign fiction also performed well between January and June, increasing by 4.8% compared to 2021 and 26.2% compared to 2019.
  • Among the best performing market segments this year are tour guides (recording a 100% gain); romance novels and women’s novels (+60%)

In this chart you see the 23.7% growth seen for comics in the Italian market in the first six months of 2022 compared to the first six months of 2021. Image: Associazione Italiana Editori

Prices remain stable: From January 2 to June 19, book sales in commercial channels, physical and online, as well as mass distribution, amounted to 670 million euros (673 million dollars). This is 30 million euros less than in 2021 but 86 million euros more than in 2019.

  • Copies sold were 46 million, which is 1.7 million copies less than in 2021 but 5.8 million copies more than in 2019.
  • The average sales price, equal to 14.66 euros, decreased by 0.6% compared to 2021 and by 1.1% compared to 2019.

Online retail falls, bookstores grow: Online bookstores in the first six months of this year in Italy, according to the IEA, sold books for 284.8 million euros in retail price ($286 million). This represents a decrease of 43 million euros ($43.1 million) from the previous year, largely recovered from physical bookstores which increased to 353.8 million euros ($355 million), a gain of 21 million euros.

  • Large distribution fell to €31.5 million, a loss of more than €6 million.
  • In terms of market share, online bookstores in these first six months saw their share fall between 42.5 and 47%, while physical bookstores saw their share increase from 47.8% to 52.8 %. The retail channels hold a 4.7% share.

Top 100 and catalog: The top 100 titles among the Italian bestsellers represent 9.2% in value and 8.2% in number of copies of total sales.

Image: Association Italiana Editori


To learn more about Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its publishing industry, click here. More on Ricardo Franco Levi is here, more on the bookstore is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

To learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on global publishing, click here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is the editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated 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 is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.