Italy's trade book sector saw a small increase in sales last year, according to market analysis released by the Italian Publishers' Association (AIE) last week, as the country continues a strong recovery from 2020, when Covid cut into sales after bookstores were shut down. The report, conducted by AIE in collaboration with Nielsen BookScan and Informazioni Editoriali, covers the trade market, including printed fiction and nonfiction books and excluding academic titles, bought both in physical and online bookstores and big box retail stores.

Overall sales reached €1.697 billion at cover price, a 0.8% increase from 2022. However, the number of units sold slightly decreased by 0.7%, to 111.85 million. Italy's trade market growth in 2023 was comparable to those of France and the U.K., which saw 1% increases, and lagged somewhat behind Germany, which saw a 2.9% growth.

The average cover price of books in Italy in 2023 was €15.17, reflecting a 1.5% increase from the previous year, but still well under the overall inflation rate of 5.7% over the same period. Across Europe, book prices increased 3% for 2023, compared to a 9% inflation rate in 2022.

Physical bookstores remained the leading sales channel for books in Italy in 2023, accounting for 54.7% of the entire trade market. Online sales represented 40.7%, while large-scale retailers accounted for 4.6%. E-book sales increased by 2.5%, to €81 million, and audiobook listening subscriptions grew by 12%, to €28 million. Italians still showed a strong preference for print, with ebooks and audiobooks making up only 6% of the total market.

When it comes to categories, Italian fiction grew 7.2%, while foreign fiction declined by 3.6%. General nonfiction, children's books, and YA titles also grew slightly in sales, while comic books declined by 10.6%.

Italy is the guest of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and the theme of its planned presentation is "Rooted in the Future."

Innocenzo Cipolletta, the president of AIE, highlighted the competitiveness of the Italian publishing industry and the growth in consumption of Italian fiction in particular, suggesting that the country has much to share with the literary world this year, when the country will be Frankfurt's guest of honor at the 2024 fair.

Nevertheless, Cipolletta said, "In 2023, the market did not do badly, but 2024 will be a difficult challenge due to the lack of some measures to support the demand for books, while the growth of production costs weighs on publishers' budgets. This is why we call for an industrial policy for books, which is central to the country's economic and cultural growth."