Just 41.1 percent of Italians over the age of six read a book for pleasure last year, marking a gradual decline from 46.8 percent in 2010.
Women and girls were shown to consistently be far greater readers than their male counterparts, with 48 percent picking up a book last year compared to just 34.5 percent of men and boys.
Bookworms are most likely to be found in the north, Istat said, where between 48.1 and 49.0 percent of Italians read at least one book in 2014.
This is in marked contrast to southern Italy, where just 29.4 percent read for pleasure last year. The figure rose slightly to 31.1 percent on the Italian islands.
There were no books at all in 9.8 percent of family homes, a figure which rose to 19.1 percent in southern Basilicata and 18.1 percent in Sicily.
But book ownership does not necessarily translate into book reading, Istat found. Over a fifth of Italians that boasted having over 400 books at home admitted they hadn’t read even one in the past year.
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Despite a gradual decline in the number of people reading books, the publishing industry has increased production. Print runs increased by 2.5 percent in 2013 and the number of titles published went up by 6.3 percent, Istat said.
The same year saw an increase of 18.6 percent for children’s literature, while production of school textbooks jumped by 23.1 percent.