Italy’s Publishers Report a Crisis in Paper Costs, Art and Travel Books

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

‘We are faced with two emergencies’ in paper costs and the state of art-book and tourism publishing, says AIE’s leadership.

On Torino’s Via Po on December 29, 2021, near the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, an arcade bookseller features tourism and art books. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Simona Sirio

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

Requesting a 30-Percent Tax Credit on Paper Purchases
Against the backdrop of the 39th seminar of the Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri program, recent bulletins from the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) have brought into relief new and specific pressure points for the proudly resilient Italian publishing market.

The primary concern, as laid out in an Italian Senate hearing by AIE on Tuesday (February 15) is focused on sharp hikes in costs in both raw materials and energy, the publishers’ association reports, threatening the beleaguered market with what one communiqué calls “a risk of a reduced supply of books and magazines, delays in deliveries, possible price increases for the reading public, and serious problems for educational publishing.”

AIE is working with two sister associations—Associazione Nazionale Editoria di Settore (ANES) and Federazione Carta Grafica, respectively the National Association of the Publishing Sector and the Graphic Paper Federation. Together, the three trade organizations are calling on Rome for a tax credit on purchases of paper used for publishing. That tax credit is intended to offset the quickly rising costs of paper.

Ricardo Franco Levi

In initial statement on February 10, AIE president Ricardo Franco Levi said, “After two very positive years, the paper emergency weighs like a serious threat on the world of books.

“These unbearable price increases are crushing the margins of all publishers, translating into the risk of cover-price increases for miscellaneous books (essays and novels)—a path that’s particularly untenable for scholastic publishers, which are subject to spending caps imposed by law.

“In addition to price increases, there are also supply difficulties that make it even more challenging to plan production and ensure timely distribution.

“Again, we place particular attention on school publishing, which is committed to guaranteeing schools and families the availability of textbooks, now under deadlines imposed by the school year.”

Senate Budget Committee Hearing Presentation

In Naples’ Port Alba, the Piazza Dante. Image – Getty iStockphoto: J2R

This week, the messaging has been sharpened to a more precise request: The association, at a budget committee hearing of the Senate in Rome, has called for the Sostegni ter legal framework to establish that tax credit on paper purchases for both 2022 and 2023.

It’s to be set at 30 percent up to a spending limit of €40 million annually (US$45.3 million).

And a new element of urgency is coming into play, as art and tourism publishers are now understood to be struggling more direly than the field in general.

For those publishers who operate in art-book and tourism spaces, the association is asking for a renewal of the 2020 aid level that the government provided, adding up to €12 million (US$13.7).

After managing to handle the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic by negotiating a suite of compelling governmental grants-in-aid for the industry, Levi says, “We are faced with two emergencies that need to be addressed promptly.

“According to data collected from our publishers, paper-price increases are very variable and are running as high as 80 and 90 percent.

“This is immediately a problem because it’s occurring simultaneously with supply problems in packaging paper, a crunch created by e-commerce giants that have persuaded some paper mills to abandon the production of print-grade papers. Skyrocketing prices and supplies at risk is generating a perfect storm. The production cycle already is less efficient because of delivery delays, and this is hampering our recovery.

“As for the art and tourism sector,” Levi says, “in 2019 it was worth €100 million (US$113,5 million). Today, the sector is suffering a collapse in turnover. Indications are that some publishers have seen downturns of as much as 88 percent.

“With these numbers, we now risk seeing the disappearance of brands and companies that are an important part of Italian publishing history.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its book publishing industry is here. More on Ricardo Franco Levi is here, more on bookselling is here, more on industry statistics is here, and more on the Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on world 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.