By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Levi: ‘An Effective Strategy’In coming days, you’ll find us here at Publishing Perspectives bringing you some of the world publishing industry news you may have missed during the big collision of publishing events that were all scheduled in the latter part of May.
As these played out, two interesting steps forward were highlighted by Ricardo Franco Levi, the president of the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE). As was mentioned in commentary last week at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the Italian market—originally the worst-hit of the European markets by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic—has also proved itself to be among the most persuasive in cultivating emergency support for its book business with the national government.
Funding Increased for the 18App
In one of the two new instances of this, Levi praises Rome’s ministry of culture for funding the 18App at €500 per person (US$609). The 18App, as you’ll recall, is the allocation provided to each 18-year-old Italian for use in cultural purchases. The association has data indicating that in January and February, 18-year-olds spent 80 percent of their allocations on print books, one of the most recent examples of how well Levi and his association have been able to harness the resources of a country deeply dependent on its cultural heritage for its place in the world.
AIE, having been instrumental in pressing for assurances of the program’s funding in 2020, now has commended the ministry for raising the funding of the 18App from €150 million to €220 (US$183 million to $268 million). This confirmation and enrichment of the program comes as the Mario Draghi government gains traction in the European Union as president of the G20 and co-chair of COP26. One effect of this, observers have noted, is that Draghi has drawn Italy into closer proximity with Germany and France’s EU leadership, bolstering transatlantic ties.
In the European Council on Foreign Relations’ evaluation from Teresa Coratella and Arturo Varvelli, it’s pointed out that despite the body blow taken by Italy from the pandemic and deepening unemployment challenges, the nation “still accounts for 17 percent of industrial production in the [EU] bloc—making it second only to Germany, at 30 percent, in this measure—and is experiencing a broader economic recovery.”
And as this program for young adults and the arts, the 18App has gained visibility—it was established five years ago, in 2016—it has become something of a model for other markets to study. One example of this is the news last week that France has allocated €80 million (US$97.8 million) for a similar “Pass Culture” for young people, though there are signals that the French edition may be worth €300 rather than €500 per person, at least at the beginning, according to Bruno Giancarli’s reporting for the Giornale della libreria.
“These measures backing the demand for books have proved effective in supporting publishing in the difficult phase of the pandemic and at the same time have the merit of promoting reading.”Ricardo Franco Levi, AIE
Early testing of the program in France, Giancarli reports, showed some 35.4 percent of the monies allocated for young adults’ use in France went toward the buying of some 400,000 book units.
If, under Draghi’s proven economic skills, Italy can “launch a medium- to long-term development strategy,” as Coratella and Varelli write, then “Italy can contribute to the creation of the EU envisioned by leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and French president Emmanuel Macron.”
Seeing the implications of this context in Rome’s reaffirmation of its cultural commitment to its young adults, Levi says, “With the raising of the funds for the 18App, the government and the ministry of culture, with the support of the parliament—in particular the culture commission of the Chamber and Senate—concretize the commitment to confirm also for this €500 euros in favor of every new adult for the purchase of cultural products.
“These measures backing the demand for books,” Levi says, “have proved effective in supporting publishing in the difficult phase of the pandemic and at the same time have the merit of promoting reading, especially when, as for the 18App, they are in favor of the younger population groups.
“A winning model, so much so that it has been copied by many European countries.”
Library Bookstore Purchases Secured
Rome has also signaled its support for a requested €30 million (US$36.6 million) purchases in bookstores, meaning that governmental purchases go through bookstores and then help the publishers, as well, of course, something that has been requested, Levi says, “by the entire publishing chain” because it benefits both publishing and retail.
He praises the culture minister Dario Franceschini for pursuing this refinancing of book-purchase funds for 2021 and the 18App’s resources for this year, “continuing on the path of supporting the demand for books in our country.
“This is an effective strategy,” Levi says, “which the rest of Europe is adopting on the basis of what has already been done here, and which our whole book-business community—AIE together with the Italian Librarians Association (Associazione Italiana Biblioteche) and the Italian Booksellers Association (Associazione Librai Italiani)–has proposed and promoted since the beginning of 2020.
“Our hope,” Levi says, “is that these measures may be written into law for publishing, as Franceschini has recommended.”
The Coronavirus in Italy
At this writing, the 5:30 p.m. ET (21:30 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 4,216,003 cases in Italy’s population of 60 million, with 126,046 fatalities.
To understand what a hit Italy has taken in the pandemic, consider that even with the extraordinarily difficult struggle India is facing, these numbers hold Italy at eighth in the world for caseload and fifth in the world for deaths.
Irene Dominioni writes for Forbes that Italy this weekend has reached its lowest coronavirus numbers since October, with 1,061 in intensive care and 6,591 hospitalized. Some 20 percent of the population has been vaccinated. A high level of inoculations was reached on May 28, with 572,000 doses being injected.
Additional news reports indicate that Rome is moving Friuli Venezia Giulia, Molise, and Sardinia into the “white zone” stage of the lowest-risk on the Italian ranking system, indicating that those are the first areas to show fewer than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents for three weeks.
More from Publishing Perspectives on the Italian market and news from its publishers’ association is here.
And more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.