Increase in sales of physical books on digital retail in Italy

Italian publishers are seeing online retail decline as brick-and-mortar stores reassert their importance in market book sales.

Vespas in Siena, October 25. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Footoo

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

Levi: “The challenge is to gain new readers”

VSnow turning to a report delayed by a few days of cover travel: in its recent book retail report, the Association of Italian Publishers (Association Italiana EditoriAIE) found that online bookstores are experiencing a decline in sales in Italy, while physical outlets are reasserting themselves as the main market outlet, accounting for the sales of more than half of all commercial books of fiction, non-fiction and reference.

Despite everything, Ricardo Franco Levi – president of the AIE, vice-president of the Federation of European Publishers and special curator of Rome for the Frankfurter Buchmesse Guest of Honor Italy 2024 program – points out that the Italian industry is facing “a context difficult economy in the post-pandemic period”. time. The challenge is to win over new readers.

As Elisabetta Povoledo reports in The New York Timestoday (June 1) is the date that much of Italy’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 involving tourism fall.

“All travelers to Italy will no longer be required to have a valid coronavirus pass from Wednesday, Italian authorities have announced,” Povoledo wrote. “The country’s health ministry said regulations requiring visitors to present a so-called ‘Green Pass’ – which showed proof of vaccination, recent recovery or a negative test – would expire on Tuesday.”

In this context, the survey carried out by AIE and Nielsen Bookscan these results were announced at the Turin International Book Fair, in a presentation entitled “The book market in the first four months of 2022”. This presentation was produced in collaboration with Aldus Up, which is funded by Creative Europe.

Ricardo Franco Levi

“Italian publishing has recovered from the pandemic years,” Levi told the show’s audience in Turin, “but now faces an economic context characterized by an increase in the cost of paper, inflation and a drop in the consumer confidence index.

“In the long term, he says, the challenge is to win over new readers, young people, who must be reached through the communication channels they use the most and offer an editorial and cultural offer to which they can always relate. ‘identify. ”

In the first four months of 2022, the new analysis saw 32 million books sold through commercial channels – physical and online bookstores and mass distribution – for a total of 469 million euros at the sale price (692.8 million), down 2.5 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, from the first four months of last year.

But five million additional copies were sold (up 17%) compared to 2019 before the pandemic, which corresponds to a total of 65 million euros (69.7 USD) at the sale price (up 16%).

According to the association, the cost of paper is having an impact, with the results seen so far this year being driven by these increases in the cost of paper – Italy is reporting costs more than double those of January 2021 – as well as the inflation of some 6.2% [in April data]and a decline in the family consumer confidence index, which fell from 117.7 in December 2021 to 100 in April 2022.

Physical bookstores: 52.4% of sales

On Via Toledo in Naples, May 24. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Gennaro Leonard

The trend followed by Aldus and IEA researchers indicates that:

  • 245.8 million euros worth of books at cover price ($263.7 million) were sold in physical bookstores
  • €201.7 million in online bookstores
  • €21.6 million in mass distribution

With that, the IEA reports, online sales growth in Italy appears to have come to a halt, despite what has been tracked as continued monthly growth since, while brick-and-mortar bookstores continue to regain ground lost after the collapse of 2020 due to pandemic closures.

In terms of quotas, bookstores accounted for more than half of all sales with 52.4%, online sales stand at 43% and mass distribution drops further to 4.6%.

In 2022, the only genres detected so far in growth are international fiction (outside the Italian market) and comics, whose sales in bookstores have tripled between 2019 and today. The comic book boom understood market performance: without it, its decline compared to 2021 would have been 5.3% instead of 3.7%.

And, compared to 2019 before the pandemic, without comics, the overall market growth would have been 10.8% instead of 16%, estimates the association.

According to an AIE Observatory survey conducted by Pepe Research, in 2021, 59% of those who said they were “very” or “quite” influenced by what they read or saw on social media, while in 2019 this figure was 50%. . The increase in this type of influence is reflected in the Top 10 for the first four months (see attachment). But the list of the ten most read books gives only a partial idea of ​​market activity.

For now, the Giornale della Libreriain collaboration with Nielsen BookScan and the IEA Research Office, offers a new online service every month.

It presents the 100 best-selling books of the month and the six rankings of the 100 best-selling books divided by genre: Italian fiction, international fiction, children’s and youth, non-fiction, reference books and comics.


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.