In the year of the pandemic, numbers
on books sold are encouraging

By Adam Smulevich

To know how to seize opportunities during a crisis is a very Jewish challenge. We have tried to raise to it with various voices’ contribution in the dossier “A year with Covid”, on Pagine Ebraiche’s March issue. From education to the publishing industry, from theater to the restaurant business: no field has remained unaffected – and in some instances, devastated, with recovery perspectives still far away – from the crisis. Yet everywhere, with courage and dedication, people made an effort to find alternative roads and models. Even with the aid of technological instruments – some already existing, some new – which have soon become familiar to millions of Italians. A road taken by Italian Jewish institutions as well, to accommodate their members’ needs, to give strength to the challenge of being united and a full-fledged community even at a distance.

During the year of the pandemic, miscellaneous publishing has increased of 2,4%, reaching 1,54 billion euro for cover price. It is one of the best European performances, as the Italian Publisher Association – AIE pointed in a recent report. “Italy is often looked down, at least in this sector. For once, we have been the example, even to countries traditionally up ahead, thanks to the effective convergence and the successful cooperation among publishing houses, book shops, government, Parliament. Decisive was the choice by the institutions to deem books as essential goods, so to allow even during the lockdown the purchase in book stores. Instrumental was publishing houses’ and book shops’ bravery in keeping on investing and producing new titles, the precariousness of the period notwithstanding.
The increase in the 2020 balance – points out to Pagine Ebraiche AIE President Riccardo Franco Levi – gathers all these elements up”. E-books in particular registered great success (+36,6%), while print books showed a slight decline (-0,8%). Overall, sold copies are 2,9% more than in 2019, with a total of 104,5 million books purchased. “Encouraging and important data”, Levi says. But that must not make us forget the many unresolved issues in Italy’s relationship with books, the president of Italian publishers and vice-president of European publishers adds. Italy is still one of the countries in Europe which reads less, a true national emergency.
“The reading level is the most evident signal of a society’s level of knowledge. Italy is unfortunately at the last places in the ranking. That’s why we keep on fighting for an even stronger support in favour of reading, be it public or private”. A crucial challenge for our Country, also present in new Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s agenda. “There are many gaps to bridge, unfortunately even on a national level. Some areas reach Europe numbers, others are way behind”, Levi claims.
He is particularly attached to the “Io leggo perché” campaign (“I read because”). An invite to all Italian citizens to participate in enhancing school libraries through book donations. “Readers are born at school. And it is at school that, also through reading, inequalities are overthrown. The campaign’s success despite the hard times has been extraordinary.” As extraordinary, Levi states, the commitment over these twelve months has been.
“I am especially glad that, by overcoming what could have been reason for conflict, different people, with different interests, cooperated and keep on cooperating with the common goal of advancing and putting reading front center. The road we are taking is the right one”, Levi concludes.

Translated by Silvia Bozzo and revised by Antonella Losavio, students at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators at Trieste University, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.