The sale of books is on the rise and this is the good news that the pandemic period has given us. But the photography of the habit of reading does not only give positive lights and the survey presented today at Book fair from the AIE, the Italian Publishers Association, confirms that optimism does not affect the whole country in the same way. 59% of the copies sold are bought by 23% of readers. The Italy of reading is actually increasingly divided: the percentage of Italians who read is decreasing, today to 56% (people between 15 and 75 years old who have read at least one book, even if only partially), but those who read it more before. A gap that rewards those who have more means, economic, cultural, social. The range of children between 15 and 17 years is the one where there was the most evident decline during the epidemic.
On the positive side, the number of Italians who read at least an hour every day is growing: it is 15% now, when it was 9% just two years ago.
“We have been saying for some time that reading is a national emergency – underlines the president of the Italian Publishers Association Ricardo Franco Levi -. As highlighted by the research, the real emergency is precisely this: the disparities within Italian society ”.
Not reading is a condition strictly linked to the socio-economic, cultural and geographical level: the weakest groups (by qualification, technological level, geographical area of residence) and those who live in the South read less.
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These are the main results of the research project on reading resulting from the collaboration between the Center for Book and Reading (CEPELL) and the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) presented today at the Turin International Book Fair in the conference Reading in pandemic # 1 – New ways of reading Italians.
According to the data collected in September by Pepe Research and revised by the AIE Study Center, readers (15-75 years) go from 65% in 2019 to 59% in 2020, to drop again to 56% this year (for 2019 and 2020 the average values were recalculated: the recovery that took place between May and October 2020 was not sufficient to recover the losses accumulated in the first part of the year). The 15-17 age bracket is the one where the most robust decline is recorded: it is the children who have downloaded and used, therefore another form of reading, millions of supplementary didactic contents for distance learning.
At the same time, however, the average number of printed books, ebooks and audio books used rises to 7.8 against 7.2 in the previous year and 6.6 in 2019. The time dedicated to this activity also increases compared to 2019: those who read an hour every day are now 15% of the population against 9 % two years ago.
Inequalities are growing, it was said. In the North, readers in three years went from 63% (2019), to 60% (2020) and then to 59% (2021), similar values to the Center (61% in 2019, 57% in 2020, 56% in 2021) ), but in the South it goes from 41% in 2019 to 40% in 2020 and 35% in 2021. The North-South gap widens from 22 percentage points up to 24. The readers with low educational qualifications are now 36 %, down 14 percentage points in two years, while readers with degrees are 84%, down 7 points. Instead, the differential between men and women remains intact: both read less than before: 60% of women are readers, 52% of men are readers.
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A market increasingly dependent on a few strong readers. Among the readers, the absolute majority read from one to three books (55%), 23% read from 6 to 4 books, 14% from 11 to 7 and 9% more than 12 books. Strong readers (more than 12 books) read an average of 17 books a year, 3 more than they read in 2020. In addition to reading, they also buy more than before: on average 12.3 books, two and a half in more than the previous year. The result is an increasingly concentrated market: 59% of copies sold are bought by 23% of readers (those who read more than 7 copies a year).
“You can look at these data from a double perspective – comments the president of the Center for books and reading Marino Sinibaldi. – In addition to the decline in readers, there is a worrying increasingly clear polarization between those who have always read and have done so more in recent months, buying more books and dedicating more time to them, and those who do not come close to reading. The gap has widened, as have other inequalities during the pandemic. Geographical, personal, gender and income differences weigh on reading even more than in the past. Today this is the field of challenge and a necessary change of course. We cannot disappoint the expectations of an audience of strong and demanding readers. But we must concentrate commitments, actions and even funds to reduce those inequalities which are a serious cultural, social and ultimately political problem ”.