How is the book market doing after the pandemic and the weeks when bookstores closed during the lock-down? How is going the recovery in sales with respect to the losses of the first part of the year? How the balance among the different sales channels changed? These are some of the questions that have been addressed on 14 October by AIE presentation in collaboration with Nielsen at Frankfurt Book Fair 2020. A video presentation in English for the international audience of the digital edition of the Buchmesse was made available on 14 October on AIE website

Data presented shows that the recovery of the Italian book market after lockdown continues. The recovery of the Italian publishing market continued between July and September. Loss of turnover in the trade books sector (novels and non-fiction) compared to 2019 fell by another 4 percentage points, from -11% to -7% (it was -20% in mid-April). The slow recovery of physical sales channels (bookshops and large-scale retail distribution) compared to online stores also continued: at the end of September they had a market share of 57%, up 5 percentage points from the record low of mid-April.

The growth trend is confirmed by data from bookshops, both physical and online (from the Arianna network), which for the first time this year, in September, recorded 30 days in positive territory, with sales up 0.3% compared to the previous year, even without including Amazon.

“The post-lockdown recovery that we had already noted in July is continuing,” explained AIE president Ricardo Franco Levi. “The publishing industry has suffered serious damage from the epidemic crisis, but at the same time has shown a surprising ability to react and adapt to the new environment.”

The total value of the market. As of 27 September, sales of physical books, non-fiction and novels, in bookshops, large-scale retail and online stores were worth 850 million euros, compared to 914 million in the same period of the previous year. The 64 million lost over nine months (i.e. 7%) is, however, a clear sign of progress compared to -11% in July and -20% in April, when 90 million euros were lost in just three and a half months.

Resumption of production and boom in e-books. Italian publishers have resumed production of new titles (physical books) at a significant pace: after falling to -77% between the beginning of March and mid-April, there was a steady recovery and, at the end of September, the year-on-year comparison showed -13%. As far as e-books are concerned, throughout 2020 production has been higher than in 2019, so much so that, at the end of September, the year-on-year increase was +13%.

Sales channels. Signs of recovery are emerging from the physical channels (bookshops and large-scale retailers) with a market share of 57% today, up from 55% in July and 52% in April. This is, however, a long way from the 73% of 2019. The next few months will show whether the 43% market share achieved by online stores (data from September referring only to physical book sales) will be consolidated over the coming years. If this is the case, lockdown will have accelerated the downward trend for physical stores which has already been happening for some time.

Where we started from: the situation in 2019. The crisis of 2020 hit a publishing market that had performed extremely well in 2019. According to the report on the state of publishing in Italy by AIE (summary in attachment), which monitors sales in all sectors (trade books as well as school, university and specialist publishing), by the end of last year the sector had grown by 3%, recovering pre-crisis levels and resulting in an overall turnover of 3.36 billion. These numbers confirm that publishing is the country’s leading cultural industry, with a turnover comparable to that of pay-TV. In 2019, there was growth in the trade books sector (+5%), school publishing (+3%) and the digital sector, which includes e-books, databases and web services (+5%). 2019 also witnessed growth in online stores compared to the previous year, from 24% to 27%, while physical channels declined to 73%. This scenario, as we told, was then disrupted by the lockdown. Finally, 2019 reaffirmed the huge growth of Italian publishing on foreign markets: sales of publishing rights for Italian authors to foreign publishers grew by 9% to 8,596 titles, almost double the figure of 4,629 in 2011.

The market focus on Italy has been made in the framework of Aldus UP.  AIE market presentation and related information materials have been also made available through the Market Insights page of the FMB website, featuring a collection of information resources on EU book markets presented in collaboration with Aldus Up. 

Video presentation and materials are available at:


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