Italian trade print book publishing generated €1.701 billion ($1.866 billion) in sales in 2021, a jump of 16% over 2020. A total of 115.6 million copies were sold, which is a hike of 18 million copies -- or 18% -- over 2020, according to data from the Italian Publishers Association (AIE). The AIE ranks Italy's book trade as sixth in the world, trailing the U.S., China, Germany, the U.K., and France. The average cover price of a book sold in Italy in 2021 was €14.72 ($16.42).
Audiobook sales and subscription sales were also strong, jumping from €17.5 million to €24 million, up 37%. E-book sales fell 11% from record numbers 2020, to €86 million total sales in 2021.
Print book production continues to rise, with 85,551 new titles released in 2021, up 22.9% compared to the previous year. The number of e-books fell to 49,313, down 5.6% from the previous year, but up 1.1% compared to 2019.
Among the strongest categories showing sales growth were comics, which more than doubled in sales, going from 4.7 million copies sold in 2020 to 11 million copies sold in 2021, and translated fiction, which sold 9.2 million copies in 2021, a rise of 15%.
Customers continue to buy books in physical bookstores, which accounted for 51.5% of total print book sales last year. Online stores are growing and account for 43% of sales, taking away market share from major retail chains, like department stores.
The overall data, compiled with the assistance of Nielsen BookScan, shows “Italian publishing has been able to react to the pandemic and, also thanks to the public support policies implemented by the government and parliament, closes 2021 with significant growth, after an already satisfactory 2020," said Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the AIE. Still, he said, the industry faces challenges in 2022, with the price of printing on the rise due to supply chain issues, as well as the ongoing threat pf piracy. In addition, sectors where the Italian industry has thrived, such as art book and travel book publishing, have also continued to decline as the pandemic continues.