Books, market holding steady but volumes sold are decreasing

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Italian readers spent a little more, but bought less. Moreover, in the face of a supply of published books that has started to rise again. Basically, without the price increase, the book market would not have closed with a plus sign this year. Also for this reason the sector is looking to 2024 with some concern, summarized by the president of the Italian Publishers Association (Aie) Innocenzo Cipolletta: «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”

Those released during the final day of the XLI Specialization Seminar of the Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri School for Booksellers of Venice are in chiaroscuro. As usual, the IEA has made public the market analysis on trade publishing in 2023, carried out in collaboration with Nielsen BookScan and IE Difesa Editoriali. The trade, or varies, includes printed fiction and non-fiction books, including titles for children and teenagers and excluding school books, purchased in physical and online bookshops and in large-scale distribution.

Sales at 1.697 billion

The data indicates that trade publishing sales in Italy in 2023 reached 1.697 billion euros at cover price, up 0.8% compared to the previous year (+14.1% on 2019). Copies were 111.85 million: down 0.7% on the previous year (+12.6% on 2019). The increase in the cover price had a positive impact: +1.5%. Less than 5.7% of inflation and much less, as the AIE itself underlines in its press release, than the +15.7% of general price growth between 2019 compared to the +2.6% of the price of books.

Average price at 15.7 euros

But that’s the case: the increase in the cover price – which reached an average of 15.7 euros – allowed the market to remain substantially stable. «Numbers that demonstrate the reduction in publishers’ profit margins, but also their effort to keep prices low so as not to depress the demand for books and reading in our country» comments the IEA.

Physical bookstores win

In detail, physical bookstores have established themselves as the first sales channel for books: 54.7% (53.5% in 2022) of the entire trade market passes through them in 2023, more than one percentage point compared to the year previous but 10 points below pre-pandemic values. Online stood at 40.7% (41.9% in 2022), large-scale distribution remained stable at 4.6%. In this context, even if ebooks and audiobooks are growing, Italians prefer paper. In 2023, e-book sales grew by 2.5%, reaching 81 million, and subscriptions for listening to audiobooks by 12%, reaching 28 million. But Italians for the most part continue to prefer paper: ebooks and audiobooks account for only 6% of an overall market (trade in printed copies plus digital) of 1.806 billion.

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