Italy’s Newest Readership Statistics: Released for BookCity Milano

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As the 10th BookCity Milano event opens, the Italian Publishers Association releases readership and bookselling research about the city.

On Milan’s Corso Sempione, January 23. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Alessandro Gubertini

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Levi: ‘Our Contribution to the City’
In an incisive assessment of readership in the metropolitan area of Milan, Italy’s Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) has determined that the Lombardy capital embraces a stronger level of readership than the Italian average.

The newly released figures show 64 percent of the Milanese reading at least one book in a year’s time, while in Italy overall, the figure is 56 percent. The survey pool looks at citizens older than 14. And the release of the new data today (November 15) is timed to arrive just before Wednesday’s (November 17) opening of BookCity Milano, hashtagged #BCM21 and running for a 10th year through Sunday as a live-and-digital hybrid event.

Cosmopolitan Milan being known for its tech-friendly stance, the region also shows digital consumers of ebooks and audiobooks running well ahead of the country overall: A strong 39 percent of those surveyed have told the program they’re reading ebooks or listening to audiobooks, as opposed to 26 percent elsewhere in Italy.

Ricardo Franco Levi l

There are few publishers’ associations as adept at market research than AIE. Under the direction of its president, Ricardo Franco Levi, the association’s stats department continually comes up with meaningful views into the situation for reading and books on the ground, a real service for publishers, authors, booksellers, and consumers.

In this case, AIE is working with the festival, which this year will see Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, award the seal of the city to the Lebanese-born author Amin Maalouf.

“This survey,” says Levi, “is unique in Europe, and it’s our contribution to our city to support an informed debate and implementation of effective policies for the promotion of reading and books here.

Juergen Boos

“The data we’ve presented indicates first of all the richness of the city’s experience, but also some disparities between the city center and the suburbs.

“We’d like this to be the first step toward a permanent ‘observatory,’ a regular regime of survey and reportage, “on cultural consumption in the City of Milan and its metropolitan area.”

Indeed, Levi will be joined on Thursday (November 18) by Frankfurter Buchmesse president and CEO Juergen Boos in a special discussion on “The Future of Publishing,” set for 4 p.m. CET (3 p.m. GMT / 10 a.m. ET) with author Chiara Gamberale, Mondadori Foundation president Luca Formenton, with Oliviero Ponte di Pino’s deft moderation.

Update, November 18: The AIE has announced that the Italian minister of culture, Dario Franceschini—instrumental in his support of Levi’s and the association’s initiatives in support of book publishing during the ongoing pandemic—will join Thursday’s meeting. Franceshini’s leadership in Rome’s response to the challenges facing books and publishing has, in fact, reflected that of a counterpart, Monika Grütters, whose support of German literature and of Frankfurt Book Fair has been generous and steadying.

That event—already sold out—is a cooperative program between Milan and Heidelberg under the aegis of UNESCO’s Creative Cities program in the literature category. As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Guest of Honor Italy will have its presentation at the world’s largest trade show in 2024, something many are looking forward to.

And this is AIE’s first year to serve as a partner of the BookCity Milano program, a logical liaison likely to be seen renewed in coming iterations of the fair.

Highlights of AIE’s BookCity Milano Research

The results of the new study were presented today under the auspices of the Cariplo Foundation. Taking part in the program were:

  • Giovanni Fosti (Cariplo Foundation)
  • Piergaetano Marchetti (BookCity Milan)
  • Ricardo Franco Levi (AIE)
  • Marino Sinibaldi (Cepell)
  • Paola Dubini (Bocconi University)
  • Giulia Cogoli (Dialogues of Pistoia)
  • Chiara Faggiolani (La Sapienza Rome)
  • Maria Chiara Baretta (Cariplo Foundation), Rocco Pinto (Book Forum Association)
  • Giovanni Peresson (AIE)
  • Stefano Bartezzaghi (semiologist and writer)

We’ll move quickly through the results to capture as many data points as possible.

On Readership: ‘Declared Readers’

The ‘age gaps’ between readers and consumers in Milan and the rest of Italy. Image: AIE

  • The biggest gap in Milan’s and wider Italy’s reading shows up in younger citizens.
  • In Milan, 88 percent of citizens aged 15 to 17 are reading, as are 87 percent of their slightly older peers, aged 18 to 24
  • In the country at large, just 51 percent of those aged 15 to 17 are “declared readers” and 81 percent of those 18 to 24 are
  • The Milanese read much more than the Italian average even in the 55-to-64 age group (47 percent vs. 31 percent) and 65-to-74 years (31 percent vs. 19 percent)
  • Italians for the most part (42 percent) are classified as “weak readers,” reading fewer than three books per year
  • By comparison, in Milan, the weak-reader group is much smaller, at 24 percent
  • The majority of Milanese, 69 percent, report reading between four and 11 books per year

Where Books Are Bought: Bricks and Mortar

Indicators of where the Milanese and Italians at large tend to buy books. Image: AIE

  • Some 63 percent of the Milanese are buyers of books and ebooks
  • By comparison, some 51 percent of Italians overall  are buyers of print and digital books
  • In Milan, almost a third of consumers, 29 percent, are buying ebooks
  • And when the Milanese buy print books, they’re likelier to do it in a physical bookstore than through an online retailer
  • A full 90 percent of Milanese book buyers say they’ve bought in physical bookstores at least once in the last twelve months
  • By comparison, among Italians at large, only 73 percent say they’ve bought a book in a physical bookstore in the last year
  • Only 26 percent of Milanese book buyers say they’ve bought at least one book online in the past year
  • In Italy overall, some 55 percent say they’ve bought a book online

Mapping the Readership: They’re in the ‘Burbs

The strongest readership regions of metropolitan Milan are outside the city center, despite the fact that more retail points per capita are in the center. Image: AIE

Of particular interest in this city-specific research project, the AIE looked at where in the metropolitan area the most robust readership is found.

While in some world markets it might be expected that the urban centers have higher rates of readership, but in Milan, the research indicates that 59 percent of regular readers aged 14 and over  are in districts farthest from the city center

  • In the “semi-peripheral” areas that figure drops to 58 percent and to 54 percent in the center
  • The distribution of bookstores, however, is seen to favor the city center, which has some 69 percent of bookstores
  • In the “semi-peripheral” areas, the research counts 19 percent of the stores
  • And only 12 percent of physical book retailers are set in the suburbs
  • In other words, as AIE parses its data, in the central and semi-central areas of Milan, there are 0.71 bookshops and stationery books for every 1,000 readers; 0.14 in the semi-peripheral areas;  and 0.07 for every 1,000 readers in the suburbs

Where the bookstores are: Milan’s main bookish retail venues are in the center, while most of the readers are in the outlying districts. Image: AIE

We’re glad to have been provided by AIE with a video presentation to share with you on the new report:


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Italian market and news from its publishers’ association is here, more on bookselling is here, and more of our coverage of industry statistics is here

And more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was 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 now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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