Doha Book Fair.. Arab publishers offer mechanisms to develop the publishing industry
Doha- The book industry in the Arab world is facing many difficulties, especially in the last ten years, due to fraud, theft and electronic piracy.
The spread of the Corona virus also led to the reluctance of a large number of publishers and their preference not to risk or venture to print new publications that may not reach the hands of the reader, after the cancellation of a number of international book fairs that were the main platform for selling their literary publications.
A study by the Arab Publishers Union in 2021 on the state of publishing in the Arab region in the years from 2015 to 2019, revealed the extent to which publishers suffered from counterfeiting and piracy, as this phenomenon exacerbated and became a disaster that destroys the Arab publishing industry, and many publishers were forced to either reduce the number of annual publications or reduce the number employees of the publishing house, or temporarily suspended.
The launch of the 31st edition of the Doha International Book Fair, held from January 13 to 22, amid precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19, was an opportunity to meet with a number of Arab publishers in order to get acquainted with their views to advance the publishing industry and its reform mechanisms.
Qatari publisher Dr. Aisha Jassim al-Kuwari, owner and director of Rosa Publishing House, says that the publishing process in the Gulf region is modern compared to other Arab capitals, and perhaps the most important challenge in the region is printing, as it is still the most expensive in the world, and therefore the publishing industry is not an industry profitable.
She added that the profit may be in the long run, and whoever enters this field must realize that he is investing in knowledge, and he must invest in building minds before investing in financial resources.
Al-Kuwari added – in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net – that the Gulf region has readers, but the success of the publishing industry needs a broad base of readers, because publishing includes various sectors and disciplines of literature, science, knowledge, books for young people and children, as well as translated books, to satisfy all tastes in reading.
She pointed out that the presence in foreign exhibitions is a necessity, but it represents a burden on publishing houses, especially emerging ones, and therefore there is a hoped-for role from governments to support this role in light of the many burdens that include the establishment process through design, auditing and editing, all of which are costs on the house, as well as customs, shipping and transportation.
For her part, Dr. Asia Moussaoui, director of “Difference Publications” and “Hakaya” publications for children’s and young people’s books in Algeria, confirms that the reality of book publishing in the Arab world is not good, as there are many problems that may combine to get rid of this profession, which many intruders have entered.
Challenges for publishers
Moussaoui explained – in a statement to Al Jazeera Net – that the most important problems related to this industry are the decline in interest in reading, lack of interest in the book as the most important source of knowledge, reliance on the culture of titles and consumer culture without going deep, and the spread of electronic or paper piracy, which threatens the book industry in most countries Arabia.
She criticized the failure of Arab governments to deal optimally with the issue of electronic piracy, which made the Arab publisher hesitate a thousand times before publishing, stressing that censorship and the poor transfer of books from one place to another made the publisher mostly rely on exhibitions only.
She pointed out that the exhibitions’ mission is to exchange experiences and experiences and conclude agreements, and not sell and meet the reader with the writer, as exhibitions have turned into a main method for distributing and selling books, adding that censorship and the complexity of the procedures for exporting books from one country to another, as well as the high prices of paper and shipping globally and the decline in purchasing power among Citizens in many Arab countries, all of these challenges facing the publishing industry.
Moussaoui believed that solving these problems is linked to the presence of political will on the part of the various Arab governments, which helps in the advancement of this sector again.
— Doha International Book Fair (@DIbookfair) January 20, 2022
In turn, Haitham Al-Hafiz, head of the Professional Development Committee at the Arab Publishers Union, head of the Syrian Publishers Association, says that the reality of Arab publishing is difficult, and that publishers are seeking to reach a positive reality, expecting that the coming periods will witness positive change with regard to the publishing industry.
Al-Hafiz stressed – in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net – that the most important challenge faced by publishers is the Corona epidemic, which has increased the troubles that direct this profession, and considered that there is a need for concerted efforts from the ministries of culture and information, as well as education and everyone related to culture in the Arab world.
As for the general manager of “Al-Ain” publishing house in Egypt, Fatima Al-Bawdi, she explains that the crisis precedes the Corona virus, because there are no companies specialized in distribution only. He wrote his books, so he would take care of distributing his books first, noting that abroad there is only a distributor who does not publish.
Al-Bawdi called – in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net – to form a company on an Arab level, in coordination between governments, to handle distribution, and at the same time allow the free circulation of Arab books, and the absence of censorship on the book because every country has censorship, stressing that censorship should be on forged books that It is smuggled and exported to the Arab countries, which leads to the beating of the publishing industry.
It also called for the publishing industry’s inputs to be exempted from customs and taxes from printing papers and inks, and to reduce taxes on publishers, especially in Arab countries that do not support the publisher.