Year’s End: Italian Publishers Expect 2021 Growth of at Least 12.6 Percent

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Good news for the Italian book market: Projections show market growth in Italy for 2021 may be as high as 16.3 percent over the first pandemic year, 2020.

Rome’s La Nuvola, the venue for the December 4 to 8 Più libri più liberi, Italy’s national fair for small- and medium-sized publishers. The full report of the AIE is to be made as the fair opens. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Gennaro Leonardi

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

Levi: Rising Paper Prices May Pose Problems
With an accomplished statistical research unit built into its structure, the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) under Ricardo Franco Levi‘s direction is a reliable leader in forecasts near the end of each year.

This week, the Italian industry is in the run-up to its annual Più libri più liberi, the national fair for small and medium publishing companies. The show runs Saturday through Wednesday, December 4 through 8, at Rome’s convention center, La Nuvola (The Cloud). Today (December 2), AIE’s research team presented the figures we have here during a preview of the fair.

These observations and projections are generated using NielsenIQ data. The top-line conclusion is that Italy’s trade publishing sector is being forecast to close 2021 up between 12.6 and 16.3 percent over the first coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic year, 2020.

“The data presented today,” according to AIE’s president Ricardo Franco Levi, “bears witness to the energy of Italian publishing, supported by investments made by publishers and supported over the course of the last two years by long-sighted public intervention policies.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Levi’s reference is to the remarkably effective partnership he has formed with the culture minister Dario Franceschini. The result has been many instances of attentive, responsible economic support from Rome for the arts and letters of Italy, thanks to the ability of Franceschini and Levi to make the case.

“The current situation, however,” Levi cautions, “reminds us of the persistence of structural difficulties of our country, such as low reading rates, and new and difficult circumstances, which include rising paper prices. All these issues will be examined, along with many others, during the book fair in Rome.”

And at that fair, a presentation of this market data will be part of the first meeting in the trade programming developed for publishing professionals at the Più libri più liberi.

Associazione Italiana Editori president Ricardo Franco Levi introduces the association’s report on figures for 2021 in a fast-recovering Italian publishing industry. Image: AIE

A Preview of Market Data Indicators: 2021

These figures, calculations, and projections cover the period from January 4 to November 11 of this year.

The Market

This graphic from the Italian publishers’ association provides a helpful look at some key European markets’ performances in the first half of 2021. Driving factors, as listed at the bottom of the image, include the timing of a market’s ability to get its bookstores reopened amid COVID-19 spread-mitigation efforts; the strength or weakness of a market’s coronavirus vaccination program; and the level of sales conducted in the digital retail space. Image: AIE

  • In the period from January 4 to November 11 of this year, retail price sales came to €1.356 million (US$1.5 million), up by 22 percent over 2020 and by 15 percent over 2019
  • This represents sales of 92 million books with a 25-percent increase over 2020 and 17 percent over 2019
  • In fact, the retail price of sales is €14.67 (US$16.59), down by 2.4 percent over 2020 and by 1.7 percent over 2019


  • According to the AIE team’s workup of data from a variety of sources, online bookshops were at the same levels as they were in 2020 (43.5 percent) and considerably up–by 30 percent–over 2019.
  • Physical bookshops have maintained 51.5 percent of the market, and major retail chains hold 5 percent
  • The growth in the market in 2021, therefore, is seen to lie in increased digital sales, up from €329 million (US$372 million) in 2019 to the €506 million (US$572 million) of 2020 and the €590 million (US$667 million) of this year
  • Also a factor: a recovery in physical bookshops, which after €711 million in sales in 2019 (US$804 million) dropped to €601 (US$680 million) in 2020 but have now risen to €698 (US$789 million)
  • Major retails chains have fallen slightly to €68 million (US$77 million)


  • After a pandemic-driven decline in 2020, the number of new printed publications has risen again to 68,057, up by 10 percent over 2020 and down by 1 percent over 2019
  • With an 11-percent decrease over 2020 and 2 percent over 2019, new ebook publications are down to 40,866

Categories and Bestselling Titles

The Top 10 bestsellers reported for the Italian market in 2021. Image: AIE

  • Data for the first 11 months of the year confirms that market growth is the same across the categories, but with some peaks.
  • In gaming and leisure, sales are seen to be up by 235 percent, comics are up by 188 percent, and current political affairs are up 56 percent
  • The year’s Top 10 bestselling titles (see attachment) confirm a mix of categories, new releases, and long-term sellers
  • Two authors have two titles each in the Top 10: Stefani Auci (Nos. 1 and 10) and Valerie Perrin (Nos. 2 and 5)
  • The top 50 titles account for 5.4 percent of total sales and 5 percent of copies, confirming an increasingly rich and varied market
  • Catalogue sales have increased by 25 percent over 2019 to reach €944 million (US$1.07 billion), and new titles by 16 percent to €412 million (US$466 million)

Here’s an embed of the presentation, in Italian, of course:

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

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on world book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.