The impact of 2020 pandemic on the European publishing industry called for public measures to support the recovery, as illustrated in the white paper published by the Centre for the Book and Reading (CEPELL) in collaboration with the Research Department of the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) and the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato “Dall’ emergenza a un piano per la ripartenza. Libro bianco sulla lettura e i consumi culturali in Italia
(2020-2021)” (From emergency to a plan for recovery. White paper on reading and cultural consumption in Italy 2020-2021)

Here we published some extracts from Part 4 of the study, providing an overview of the public measures adopted in European countries for the support and recovery of the book sector.

The white paper, in Italian, is freely available online on the CEPELL website  


The Covid 19 pandemic has affected all European publishing markets. An analysis by the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) published in July[1]confirms this.

The measures described below were implemented by European governments during the period from the beginning of March to the end of September 2020. These addressed authors, translators, publishers, bookshops, and libraries in different ways and to different degrees. While during the initial phase of the pandemic the aim was to respond to the emergency and compensate for loss of income, the liquidity crisis and the risk of business closure, in the second phase aid was geared towards promoting the recovery of activity and the renovation of structures.

The FEP, its individual member associations and other publishers contributed to the analysis.


One of the most significant cases, in terms of the amount and scope of aid provided to the entire industry, is France, managed mainly through the CNL (Centre National du Livre – National Book Centre). An initial measure, at the end of March, facilitated the conditions for access to CNL aid, extended the expiry date by a year for all grants ending between 15 March and 1 September 2020, , and simplified the procedures for accessing contributions for authors and publishers for the creation and publication of new works and for French-speaking bookshops for projects abroad.

Subsequently, again through the CNL, the following funds were allocated

  • 2 million euros in aid for authors
  • 5 million euros to small publishers, of which 850,000 were reserved for the smallest independent publishing houses (with an annual net turnover of less than 500,000) and 4.2 million for publishing houses with a turnover of up to 10 million.
  • 1 million euros to French-speaking bookshops abroad.


Bookshops received even greater support: in June, a €25- million fund was set up at the CNL to support the reopening of independent bookshops after lockdown. In addition to this fund, 12 million euros (spread over 2020 and 2021) was set aside to support investments by bookshops in modernisation, IT equipment and the development of e-commerce websites.

Finally, in September, the French government announced a new plan to relaunch the sector, which included

  • 30 million euros for the renovation of libraries (18 million for sustainable energy renovation of buildings, and 12 million to extend opening hours);
  • 6 million euros for the renovation of bookshops (both physical outlets and e-commerce);
  • 10 million euros (5 in 2021 and 5 in 2022) for the renewal of library stocks through the purchase of new books in physical bookshops;
  • 7 million euros over two years to finance a book voucher for youngsters as part of the “Jeunes en librairie” (Young People in Bookshops) programme. The initiative involves teachers and booksellers and aims to help teenagers discover the role of bookshops in the book chain.


Regarding the use of tools provided for general businesses, it is estimated that by mid-June publishers and booksellers had received more than 17 million euros in subsidies to support temporary and partial unemployment, and that between March and May 10 million euros in exemptions from social security contributions for micro-enterprises in the months of closure were taken up bookshops (with a maximum of 10 employees).


The German package for relaunch of creative industries, NEUSTART KULTUR, includes a 30 million euro fund to support authors, literary events, translations, publishers andbooksellers. It is made up as follows:

  • 10 million euros for publishers, to support book, e-book and audiobook production projects (limited to one project per publishing house and two per publishing group). The subsidy covers printing and production costs and ranges from a minimum of 2,500 to a maximum of 7,500 euros, with the possibility of higher funding (10,000 euros for books and 8,000 euros for audio books) if sustainable production processes are used.
  • 10 million euros for bookshops (with an annual turnover of less than 2 million) to support the development of digital distribution and sales channels, in particular for the financing of e-commerce websites, social media activities, IT infrastructure and security, and professional promotional materials (e.g. videos). The subsidy ranges from 1,500 to €7,500 euros.
  • 5 million euros to increase the Literature Fund, to help authors and promoters of literary events. New activities funded include covering authors’ fees for their participation in events and supporting the development of innovative formats, including digital ones, for literary events.
  • A 5 million euro increase in the Translation Fund, to support translations from and into German. One of the new measures introduced is the creation of an online platform to facilitate remote collaboration. In addition to translators, publishers also benefit from the fund as it also covers the costs of translation. These funds are available until the end of 2021.
  • Particularly significant funding was allocated to the school sector: 100 million euros to enable schools to purchase content for distance learning and to boost the use of digital platforms.

United Kingdom

As part of an extensive 1.57 billion pound Creative Industries Programme, the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has earmarked 2.7 million for the ‘literature’ sector, which includes publishers, literary festivals, public bodies, charities and not-for-profit organisations. The fund was open for applications from 10 August to 4 September. Publishers were able to apply for grants for publishing projects (in the areas of fiction, non fiction, illustrated children’s books, manga and comics, and poetry), for live literary events, and for translations.

In addition to the allocation of new funds, tax relief was provided for some creative industries, but not for publishing, which is among the requests by the publishers’ association.

The UK Arts Council allocated a 50 million pound emergency fund (with a maximum of 35,000 per applicant) for organisations in the cultural sector that have suffered losses (documentable where requested) during the pandemic. The fund is reserved for organisations (art, literature, museums and libraries) that have received Arts Council or other public funds in the past for cultural projects or activities.

Finally, with a view to increasing public demand, the Arts Council has approved 151,000 pounds in funding for libraries for the purchase of e-books and audiobooks, pointing out how this also responds to the increase in users of digital services during March (up 600% on the same period last year). The scheme will see each of the 151 public library services in England receive 1,000 pounds towards the immediate purchase of new digital products.


The Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport, together with the Sociedad de Garantía Recíproca Audiovisual Fianzas (CREA SGR), the pan-European financing institution and mutual guarantee society, has launched a credit guarantee facility that is expected to free up to 780 million euros for cultural and creative industries. The programme includes guaranteed lines of credit for the different industries in this sector (each with a minimum budget of 40 million euros), including the publishing sector, and is implemented through the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility of the European Commission (Creative Europe Programme).

In terms of direct aid to businesses, 4 million euros was allocated to independent bookshops, as part of a programme totalling 75 million euros in aid for the creative industries.

Support for demand, on the other hand, characterised action by local authorities:

  • Special funds for library book purchases have been activated by the autonomous communities of Madrid (4 million euros), Barcelona (1 million) and Valencia (500 thousand), as well as by the governments of Catalonia (1 million) and Andalusia (750 thousand).
  • Several cities have funded vouchers for cultural consumption, for a total value of almost 2 million euros.
  • The publishers’ association calls for both lines of action to be extended nationwide.

Other European countries

In many of the other European countries, special attention has been given to supporting the creative phase, with direct contributions to authors and translators, both from the public sector and—similarly to what SIAE does in Italy—from collective  societies.

In June, the collective copyright society Literar Mechana in Austria announced a programme of support for the sector: 1 million euros for publishers and 1.5 million for authors. The support programme uses the SKE – Soziale & kulturelle Einrichtungen der Austromechana fund for the promotion of culture and the arts, and provides subsidies of up to 25,000 euros per publisher to support royalty payments to authors, to cover immediate needs for liquidity. In addition, the Austrian State Secretary has increased the financing fund for publishing houses from 2.2 to 3 million euros.

In Iceland, authors benefited from a special 566,000 euro government fund, which they received as a supplement to their annual income. Another 45 publishing projects and literary events benefited from an additional 247,000 euros from Icelandic Literature Center. Authors and translators also received additional support from the fund for library lending. For 2020 alone, the government increased the distributed fund from 555,000 to 844,000 euros (which, incidentally, is close to the amount of the fund in Italy, even though the Icelandic population is 160 times smaller). For each loan, authors will receive about 60 eurocents and translators about 35. Icelandic authors and translators have therefore benefited from total additional public funds of more than 1.1 million.

Direct aid was provided to authors and other professionals in the creative industries in Estonia, where the Ministry of Culture allocated almost 5 million euros to freelance creatives and increased the funds for authors by 100,000 euros and in Lithuania, where a portion of the aid to culture (22 million euros) went to support artists and professionals in the cultural sector in the form of subsidies for their period of inactivity. In Belgium, the Flemish Literature Fund received additional funds to compensate authors, translators and illustrators for lost royalties and losses due to the cancellation of literary events. Norway also provided additional subsidies for authors.

In the Netherlands, much of the 300 million euro devoted to the cultural sector went to structures (such as museums and literary funds) that provide contributions to artists and creators of works, not so much to producers. It must be remembered that the Dutch publishing market was less affected by the pandemic than other European countries and the majority of its bookshops remained open during the first wave of the pandemic  , so public support focused more on other, worse affected cultural sectors. In addition, the Dutch Foundation for Literature launched an extraordinary call for contributions for translations from Dutch (100,000 euros) to help translators find new assignments and to encourage the publication of new translations.

Measures to support the creative side of the value chain often directly concern publishers as funding goes to editorial projects. French-speaking Belgium, for example, has set aside a fund of 650,000 euros for authors, publishers, illustrators, translators, and other book professionals with an annual turnover of less than 500,000 euros. Funding is earmarked for the relaunch and adaptation of projects postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic (publication of titles, promotional events, and literary workshops).

Luxembourg has also increased the number of publishing projects eligible for financial aid for publication through the National Cultural Fund (Fonds Culturel National), as has Latvia, which has earmarked 250,000 euros from the emergency fund for cultural industries (32 million) to increase funding for book projects, which must be assigned by the end of the year, while Portugal has allocated subsidies of 45,000 euros to support authors in the creation of new works.

Slovakia has provided a new round of aid for authors and translators for the submission of future projects, while the Czech Republic has allocated 700,000 euro subsidies to publishers to support the publication of new books. This measure is considered largely insufficient by the association of publishers and booksellers, who have proposed introducing a direct contribution for publishers calculated on the basis of the titles published during the year (worth about 1,700 euros per published title).

The use of general support schemes for all companies and workers is the approach favoured by the Scandinavian countries, which have, as far as possible, avoided the use of measures targeting specific sectors. However, it should be considered that, together with the Netherlands, they are the European countries whose publishing market suffered the least during the first wave of the pandemic.

Supporting demand

Measures taken to support public and private demand for books, especially regarding purchases by schools and libraries, families, students and the weaker segments of the population are complementary to emergency aid and indispensable in the context of the general economic crisis for the medium- and long-term recovery of the sector. Identified as priorities by both the European publishers’ and booksellers’ associations (FEP and EIBF) and many national associations, they have been adopted or are under discussion with the governments of several countries.

Supporting public demand

Many countries have mobilised special funds for the purchase of books by libraries. We have already mentioned the French measures for the next two years (with a commitment of 10 million euros) and those of the Spanish local authorities (just over 7 million). Other countries have taken steps in the same direction.

Lithuania has allocated 1.7 million euros for the purchase of books and other publications; Latvia and Estonia have each allocated 300,000 euros for the purchase of books (of which, in the case of Estonia, 70,000 specifically for children’s literature).

The Czech Republic has allocated 370,000 euros for the purchase of books and e-books by Czech publishers for the national library, while the special fund in Slovakia, in cooperation with the local Arts Council, amounts to more than 1.5 million euros for the purchase of books for libraries, preferably from local bookshops. The Malta Book Council has also used its funds to place “emergency orders”’ of books for public libraries with all its publishers.

Some measures have been targeted to support specific business categories. This is the case of French-speaking Belgium, which has allocated 1 million euros for the purchase of books from independent bookshops. Half of this fund is allocated to public libraries, the other half via the nationwide Centres public d’action sociale (CPAS) with the aim of encouraging reading among disadvantaged social groups. This measure applies to new titles, published in 2019-2020 that have been legally deposited and registered in the databases of books for sale (Banque du livre and

In Portugal, the Minister of Culture has launched a programme to finance the purchase of books from the catalogues of small publishers (with an annual turnover of less than 200,000 euros) through small bookshops (with an annual turnover of less than 300,000 euros). The books purchased will then be distributed in collaboration with the Camões Institute through its network of cultural centres and centres for the teaching of the Portuguese language abroad. This 400,000 euro programme was deemed grossly inadequate for sector needs by the Portuguese publishers’ association.

In some countries, support for libraries specifically focused on the purchase of digital resources, partly because of the significant increase in the use of e-library services during the pandemic.

We have already mentioned England and the 151,000 pounds for libraries. In Ireland, 200,000 euros were allocated to libraries for the purchase of additional e-book licences following the substantial increase in accesses (313% more users of e-books and audio-books between the beginning and the end of March). In Estonia, the ELLU e-library service received 10,000 euros from the government and 17,000 from the city of Tallinn for the purchase of e-book licences and the development of the service, previously limited to city library users and now accessible nationwide.

Supporting private demand

At the moment, the most tangible initiatives, apart from Italy, are those already described in France and Spain. The only other to have materialised at the moment is in Hungary where the government, confirming its interventionist approach, has allocated 560,000 euros to buy books directly from publishers with a 50-60% discount, for distribution to families in difficulty through socially active organisations. This is a very different stance from that indicated by European associations, which are calling for readers to make the purchasing decisions.

In other countries discussion is underway for similar measures, strongly promoted by professional associations. In the Czech Republic,  the association of publishers and booksellers has for some time been engaged in dialogue with the government for the approval of more substantial measures to support private demand through book tokens for students and younger segments of the population. After an initial positive response from the institutions, this proposal has lost momentum and is still under discussion. Similarly, in Portugal, the association of publishers and booksellers (APEL) had already started discussions with the government before the crisis for a measure similar to the Italian 18app. As the pandemic took hold, APEL stressed the priority of this measure to support recovery of the sector.

In Romania, the publishers’ association supports the need to introduce book purchase cards for families, schools, and students. Measures under discussion include the hypothesis of reintroducing a voucher of 100 euros/year (in force in 2009) for the purchase of educational material.

Special reduction of VAT

Several countries have included this as one of their measures in response to the Covid emergency. From 1 July 2020 to the end of the year, Austria has temporarily introduced a new 5% lower rate of VAT on books and e-books, as well as on other products and services in the field of culture (cinema and museum tickets), tourism and catering. For the same period, Germany has ordered a reduction from 7% to 5% for the reduced VAT rate on books.

In Bulgaria, the reduction of VAT from 20% to 9% applies from 1 July to the end of 2021 and covers different goods and services including books, e-books and audio books. This measure is particularly significant given that Bulgaria is one of only two European countries that have never applied reduced VAT to books (the other being Denmark).

The option of applying reduced VAT to digital publications has been in force in Europe since 2018. Spain, the UK and Estonia have adopted or accelerated the use of reduced rates on digital publications as an anti-crisis measure. In the UK, the publishers’ association is now calling for this measure to be extended to audio books.

Measures to help cancelled or postponed events

Many countries have implemented measures to support the costs of postponed or cancelled events, either by providing subsidies to cover related costs (Bulgaria, Denmark, Lithuania, Norway) or by waiving the obligation to return of subsidies already paid. The latter is the case in Germany, where the Ministry of Culture has also reinforced existing funding programmes, and in France, where the CNL has maintained subsidies paid to cancelled literary events to help them cover costs already incurred, especially remuneration for guest authors, and the Netherlands, where institutions receiving funding for cultural projects (multi-annual or for specific projects) through the national cultural funds (Rijkscultuurfondsen) will not have to return sums already received.

Again in Germany, the NEUSTART KULTUR programme for relaunching the cultural and creative sector earmarked 4 million euros for the Frankfurt International Book Fair (14-18 October 2020) to support participation in the event and development of the event’s digital format.

French-speaking Belgium, on the other hand, made available repayable loans of at least 25,000 euros to event organisers.

Whereas in Sweden, where the Arts Council has received additional funding of around 35 million euros to be used to compensate both costs incurred and losses suffered by organisers of cancelled or postponed cultural events.

Looking at the need to develop new formats for events, the Irish Arts Council has set up a special funding programme (Capacity Building support scheme) with a one-off award for cultural and arts organisations that have managed to reorganise and adapt their business and artistic models to the emergency. Beneficiaries are entitled to a maximum of 20,000 euros each.



[1] Federation of European Publishers, Consequences of the Covid-19 crisis on the book market, July2019 ( Cf., for a summary, E. Turrin, L’impatto della pandemia sull’editoria europea, published online in «Giornale della libreria» on 13 October 2020