Children’s Books In Italy: Pre-Bologna Statistics

In News by Porter Anderson

Ahead of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Italian publishers release statistics on the 2024 Frankfurt guest of honor’s children’s book sector.

In the Comics Corner area of the 2023 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: BCBF

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

‘Children’s Books: An Italian Excellence’
While many Publishing Perspectives readers are preparing for London Book Fair (March 12 to 14), of course, many are also prepping for Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April 8 to 11), which runs again this year concomitantly with two “brand extension” programs, Bologna Licensing Trade Fair/Kids and Bologna Book Plus.

In an interesting round of statistics released today (February 28) by the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE), members of the international press corps are being told that in 2023 the Italian children’s market grew by 2.1 percent over its 2022 stance, with cover-price sales of some €291.6 million (US$315.3 million). That total includes €273.9 million in text-and-illustration titles, and €17.8 million (US$19.2 million) in comic books for readers aged 14 and younger.

Innocenzo Cipolletta

In terms of translation and international publication rights, better than one out of every three rights sales of Italian content is a title in the children’s and young readers’ sector, according to AIE president Innocenzo Cipolletta.

“These numbers tell, on the one hand” Cipolletta says, “the fundamental contribution to internationalization made by this sector and by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in particular, with which we have been proud to collaborate for years.

“And on the other hand, [these statistics] are one of the reasons why Guest of Honor Italy at the 2024 Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20) will dedicate ample space to children’s books, an Italian excellence.

“All this will be discussed in Bologna, thanks to the initiatives of ‘Destination Frankfurt.’ But we will also deal with the promotion of reading, artificial intelligence, comics crafts.”

Events Planned for Bologna 2024

Exhibition space at the 2023 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: BCBF

“Destination Frankfurt” is the name given to Rome’s framework for Italy’s 2024 guest of honor program, which is coordinated by the government’s appointed extraordinary commissioner Mauro Mazza. And several Bologna events are pertinent here to the Frankfurt program

  • April 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.: During the run of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Bologna Book Plus theater, under Jacks Thomas‘ direction, a special meeting is to be held for international professionals. In that session on Bologna’s first day, there’s to be a presentation of the Italian book market’s performance in 2023, provided by AIE in cooperation with AldusUp, , the network of European book fairs co-financed by the European Commission through Creative Europe
  • April 8 from 12:30 to 1:30: Do Androids Dream of Great Alternative Descriptions for Images? is a session organized by Fondazione LIA – Accessible Italian Books as part of Aldus Up and ABELab—projects funded by the European Union—and which will address the topic of alternative descriptions of images with respect to the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence.
  • April 8 from 12:30-1:30 p.m.: Sala Bolero is the location for a meeting called With Books You Grow Up: Books and Reading in Kindergartens, presented in association with a pilot project  called #ioleggoperché LAB-NIDI and curated by AIE and Fondazione Cariplo, in collaboration with Nati per leggere and Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
  • April 9 from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m.: A late-afternoon session, again in Bologna Book Plus’ presentation space, will feature a discussion among international publishers on Narrazioni, personaggi e illustrazioni: l’editoria italiana per ragazzi all’estero | Destinazione Francofort (Narrrations, Characters, and Illustrations: Italian Publishing for Children Abroad | Destination Frankfurt.)
  • April 9 at a time as yet unannounced: There’s to be a networking program under the “Destination Frankfurt” banner, at a morning hour to be announced and set on the Italian publishing collective stand (Hall 29, Mall 1), within the Bologna Book Plus area.
  • April 10 at 11 a.m.: Frankfurter Buchmesse and AIE will offer a networking event for Italian and German publishers titled “An Espresso With Italian Publishing Houses,” at the German collective stand, easily spotted for its pink banners referencing “German Stories.”
  • April 10 at 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.: A meeting at the Translators’ Café discusses The Comic Book Professions: From Lettering to Translation by the Comics & Graphic Novels Commission of the AIE as part of Aldus Up. The meeting is part of a series organized to explore publishing professions related to the comics genre.
  • And a delegation of German journalists is expected in Bologna, with their coverage focused on children’s and YA publishing in Italy.
Bologna Book Plus and AIE

As our readers will remember, Bologna Book Plus is a cooperative venture with AIE and for a first time this year, companies in the publishing supply chain—vendors such as printers, distributors, and other publishing-service companies—will be able to engage in the rights exchange at the Italian collective, a space more of more than 100 square meters, to present their services.

There is also to be an award ceremony for the Bologna Best Children’s Publishers of the Year winners, a program regionalized for its international reach, and the International Publishers Association (IPA) is to participate in that.

More Statistics on Children’s Books in Italy

At the 2023 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: BCBF

Resident readership population as of January 1, 2023

  • Children up to 14 years old: 7,344,099 (-1.9 percent from January 1, 2022)
  • Children 6 to 14 years old: 4,791,715 (-1.6 percent from January 1, 2022)

Readers of “at least one non-school book in the previous 12 months” (2022) ISTAT

  • 6 to 10 years: 48.2 percent
  • 11 to 14 years old: 57.1 percent

Ebook readers “in the previous 12 months” (2022) ISTAT

  • 6 to 10 years: 5.2 percent
  • 11 to 14 years old: 13.9 percent

Listeners of audiobooks “in the previous 12 months” (2022) ISTAT

  • 6 to 10 years: 2.2 percent
  • 11 to 14 years: 3.0 percent

Trade sales (physical and online bookstores) at cover price of the children and youth sector

  • 2019: €239.7 million
  • 2022: €271.2 million
  • 2023: €273.9 million (+1.0 percent vs. 2022)

Trade (physical and online bookstores) at the cover price of the children and youth sector
Including children’s comics

  • 2019: €243.7 million
  • 2022: €285.7 million
  • 2023: €291.6 million (+2.1 percent vs. 2022)

Copies sold (physical and online bookstores) of the children and youth sector

  • 2019: €20.3 million
  • 2022: €22.2 million
  • 2023: €22.3 million (+0.5 percent vs 2022)

Copies sold (physical and online bookstores) of the children and youth sector
Including children’s comics

  • 2019: €20.6 million
  • 2022: €23.2 million
  • 2023: €23.5 million (+1.5 percent vs. 2022)

Numbers of Titles: Published children’s and youth books:

  • 2019: 7,810
  • 2020: 7,289
  • 2021: 8,850
  • 2022: 8,625

Distribution of book production by age group (2022)

  • Up to 2 years old: 6.5 percent
  • 3-4 years old: 34.3 percent
  • 5-6 years old: 27.7 percent
  • 7-8 years: 16.1 percent
  • 9-10 years old: 9.3 percent
  • 11-13 years old: 5.7 percent
  • Unclassified by age: 0.4 percent

Import and export
Trends in rights sales and rights purchases of children’s books by Italian publishers

  • 2001: €486 million
  • 2010: €1,607 million
  • 2020: €2,812 million
  • 2022: €2,744 million

Data collection and processing for the figures for this report are provided by the AIE research office from sources including ISTAT, Nielsen, IE (Informazioni Editoriali), AIE Import/Export Survey.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Italian market is here, more on industry statistics is here, More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more from us on children’s books is here, more on publishing and book awards is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.