At Torino: Italy’s Bookstores Surge to a 58.3-Percent Share

In Feature Articles by Jaroslaw Adamowski

The Torino Book Fair predicts it will surpass last year’s 169,000 visitors, as Italy’s publishers’ association announces gains by bookstores.

At Torino’s international book fair, running through Monday. The Italian publishers stand, AIE, is in the foreground as they present detailed business appraisals this week of the market’s progress. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Jaroslaw Adamowski

By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows
With Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Eclectic Publishers, Strong Sales
As the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) leads various seminars, discussions, and presentations at the ongoing Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino, its state of the sector report today (May 19) has revealed a leveling off of the industry’s growth curve that took off during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The market now stands at 17 percent above its 2019 position, according to AIE’s analysis based on Nielsen BookScan figures.

This, as fair organizers say they’re optimistic about this year’s attendance after reporting positive pre-sales results.

Piero Crocenzi

Piero Crocenzi, the public-facing fair’s CEO, tells Publishing Perspectives that since 2019 when the event’s organization was taken over by a new company, the show has bloomed.

“This year,” Crocenzi says, “we’ve accommodated about 600 Italian publishers, and we’re on track to beat last year’s results. Owing to our pre-sales, we’re confident that our book fair will expand this year compared with last year.

According to Italian news reports, the fair’s 2022 edition was attended by close to 169,000 visitors. This year, its physical footprint covers up to 115,000 square meters (1.2 million square feet), up from last year’s 60,000 square meters (645,843 square feet).

Torino Guest of Honor: Albania

Italy’s neighbor Albania is this year’s guest of honor at the Torino show.

Benko Gjata

Benko Gjata, Albanian author and director of the Albanian Cultural Center in Torino, t3lls Publishing Perspectives that the nation’s booth at the Torino show, an immense rock-like architectural installation, draws from the country’s literature, and refers to Chronicle in Stone, a popular novel by Albania’s Ismail Kadare.

“We see an increasing interest in Albanian writers among Italians,” Gjata say, “and more and more books by our authors are published in Italy. There’s a very intense cultural exchange between our two nations.

Italian is the most popular international language among Albanians, and more than 600,000 out of four million Albanians live in Italy. We have much to offer to each other,” he says. “We’ve participated in the show since 2013, but the Albanian government’s support this year was crucial in making Albania this year’s guest of honor in Torino.”

At least 10 Albanian publishers—and a similar number of Italian publishers who release translations of Albanian literary works—are taking part in this year’s edition of the show, according to Gjata.

The book fair this year features an eclectic set of Italian publishers, attracting not only seasoned readers but also large numbers of young, often adolescent visitors.

Nicola Pedrazzi, the editor of law books at Italy’s Il Mulino publishing house, tells Publishing Perspectives, “We publish humanities books for universities and also trade books, and some of the market trends we detect are related to the rising popularity of titles on artificial intelligence, democracy, war, and also the relationship between humans and technology.

“We carefully curate our catalogue, and we offer our readers a small selection of the best books on those topics.”

Some of Il Molino’s latest bestsellers include La Scorciatoia (The Shortcut), a book by Nello Cristianini who is a professor of artificial intelligence at the United Kingdoms’s University of Bath.

“Our editorial line continues to be determined by an association which owns our publishing house, and takes votes to decide what type of books we’ll publish in the future. This way, we continue to release titles by politically-engaged, but also independent thinkers,”  Pedrazzi says.

Another publisher to attend Torino, L’ippocampo, distinguishes itself by a creative and colorful booth which celebrates the 20th anniversary of its establishment.

Matteo Fumagalli

Matteo Fumagalli, chief of communications at L’ippocampo, tells Publishing Perspectives that his house specializes in illustrated books for adults and children.

“We buy publishing rights from various countries, including France, Japan and Poland,” Fumagelli says. “We publish fashion, cooking and gardening titles for adults, and both fiction and non-fiction literature for children which enchants them with high-quality literature.”

The Torino show presents a precious opportunity to reach out to new readers, but also to connect with L’ippocampo’s existing and growing ranks of readers, according to Fumagalli.

The Torino fair, in deliberately shoring up its international ties, is also working with Frankfurter Buchmesse this year, Crocenzi points out.

“We have very good relations with Frankfurt Book Fair,” he says, “and we hosted Germany as our guest of honor back in 2015. Since then, our cooperation has entered a new level, as is indicated by our joint organization of the Aficionado Award,” familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers from our earlier coverage.

The award’s first three shortlistees were presented Wednesday evening (May 17) ahead of the Torino show’s kickoff. It’s an industry-based awards program developed by a quartet of seasoned professionals to recognize and honor “original and inspiring publishing initiatives.”

AIE Analysis of the Italian Market’s Status

Image: AIE

The analysis provided at Torino by the AIE studies office was titled “The Book Market: Trends and Analysis,” an event offered in collaboration with the Aldus Up program financed by the European Commission through Creative Europe. Andty the energy being reported in the book industry reflects the kind of growth that Crocenzi says this annual fair is experiencing.

Giovanni Peresson, who leads the Italian publishers association’s research and studies division, has told the Torino International Book Fair audience during its professional program that the organization’s data shows two key findings:

“The first,” Peresson says, “is that the market growth triggered at the end of 2020 was not a passing phenomenon, but a long-term trend. Publishing sales are stabilized at a higher value than 2019,” Peresson says, crediting this in part to the Italian publishing community’s ability to anticipate new needs and new audiences.

“The second is that this result is dependent on keeping prices low, despite rising costs for raw materials and energy. Publishers are aware of the delicacy and fragility of a reading market that is sensitive to the slightest changes, but certainly low sales prices, despite an inflation rate of 8 percent, are a very challenging choice, especially for smaller publishers with less financial capacity.”

Physical bookshops, Peresson and his associates are reporting, have “consolidated their position as the first channel for book sales (53.8 percent).

That creates an increase over the first four months of 2019 of 17 percent in sales of fiction and nonfiction, excluding academic materials.

Online retail, by contrast, has declined again in Italy to a share of 41.5 percent, and large-scale retailers recovered slightly to 4.7 percent. However, the team points out, it should be remembered that online had only 27 percent of the market in 2019, so the aggregate increase in share is still substantial.

The analysis provided at Torino by the AIE studies office based on Nielsen BookScan data and other sources, and the program was titled “The Book Market: Trends and Analysis,” an event offered in collaboration with the Aldus Up program financed by the European Commission through Creative Europe.

The program’s panel included publishers:

  • Alessandra Carra (Feltrinelli Group)
  • Marzia Corraini (Corraini Edizioni)
  • Diego Guida (vice-president of AIE and president of the small publishers group)
  • Stefano Mauri (Mauri Spagnol Publishing Group)
  • Martino Montanarini (Giunti Group)
  • Maria Teresa Panini (Franco Cosimo Panini Editore)
  • Enrico Selva Coddé (Mondadori Group)

Moderation was handled by the journalist Sabina Minardi and led by welcoming address Ricardo Franco Levi, who is also president of the the Federation of European Publishers and the commissioner specially appointed by Rome for the 2024 Frankfurter Buchmesse Guest of Honor Italy program.

Several additional points from the presentation:

  • Trade sales in the first 16 weeks of the year came to €473.2 million euros, with 31.2 million copies sold—17 percent over 2019’s first four months in value and 15.6 percent higher in units
  • Against an overall year-on-year price increase of 8.3 percent in April, the average cover price of books sold rose by 1.1 percent. Today the price of a book, averaging €14.78, less than 50 cents higher than in 2019
  • According to data from the AIE “observatory” analysis program on reading habits by Pepe Research, the recovery of bookshops can be attributed to a precise choice by readers who in 46 percent of cases declare having used bookshops more in the last 12 months, reducing purchases online and in other alternative channels
  • Italian fiction is up 17.3 percent over 2019’s numbers and up by 2.5 percent over 2022
  • Internattional fiction is up by 21.7 percent over 2019’s figures, but has fallen by 4.2 percent as compared to 2022 analysis
  • Sales of romance have reached €15.7 million in the first four months of 2023, more than double sales in the same period of 2019

At Torino’s international book fair, running through Monday. The Italian publishers stand, AIE, is in the foreground as they present detailed business appraisals this week of the market’s progress. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Jaroslaw Adamowski

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Torino International Book Fair is here, more on international book fairs and trade shows overall is here, more on industry statistics is here, and more on the Italian market is here.

About the Author

Jaroslaw Adamowski

Jaroslaw Adamowski is a freelance writer based in Warsaw, Poland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the Jerusalem Post, and the Prague Post.