Qatar – Head of APA: Great challenges for the publishing industry…

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(MENAFN- Gulf Times)

The Arabic publishing industry faces major challenges, reveals a study published by the Association of Arab Publishers (APA) in mid-2021.
The study on the state of publishing in the Arab region from 2015 to 2019 showed that publishers suffered from counterfeiting, piracy and declining sales, which threatened the Arab publishing industry until ‘that many publishers had to either reduce the number of annual publications and the number of publishing house workers or stop temporarily.
Additionally, many Arab book fairs have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which was an important outlet for book distribution that publishers have lost.
Another APA study found that book fairs account for 53% of annual book sales.
In a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA), APA Secretary General and Executive Director of Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press), Bashar Chebaro, asserted that great challenges are facing the publishing industry in the Arab world that require urgent action to preserve the rights of authors and publishers and increase book sales, which are currently in steep decline.
Chebaro said that the challenges facing the publishing industry in the Arab world and around the world are great and perhaps the biggest challenge in the Arab world is that the publishing industry lacks two baselines from the beginning of the profession to its end.
He explained that Arab society lacks a literary rights officer, who is like a corporate lawyer, and it is he who transmits the book, with his relatives, from one language to another, as well as d one country to another.
Moreover, it lacks a distribution company, he added.
He pointed out that there is no book distribution company at the level of the Arab world, and that there is currently distribution within countries and is linked to newspapers.
In this regard, he noted that a study by the APA showed that book fairs account for 53% of book sales, highlighting the importance of fairs and the need to hold them.
He added that book fairs play a role in strengthening relationships between publishers, authors and researchers, not just in selling individual books to readers as that is the function of the library.
To meet these challenges, the Secretary General demanded the creation of a website in cooperation between the APA and the Arab governmental cultural institutions, and in each country there would be an office and a modern printing machine.
Thus, the reader enters the site and chooses the book he wants and prints in his country, thus reducing the storage load of the publishers and the delivery is done by semi-instantaneous courier.
On the possibility of the APA taking up this proposal, he said that the Association indeed can, but it needs the support of the governments because it needs a precise and practical program, places to place the devices of printing and fulfillment, and a group of employees to perform the tasks, and over time, publishing will be strengthened.
On the APA’s role in dealing with these challenges, which were revealed by its study in 2021, Chebaro said that the APA brings together national federations and is the mother of the labor movement, and that it had a role in Arab fairs, especially in the Gulf, such as exempting Arab publishing houses from fees or reducing them, as happened in Doha, Sharjah, Riyadh and other fairs.
The association also has an Intellectual Property Committee which monitors issues of piracy, counterfeiting and imitation.
There is a special committee for the fairs and coordination is carried out so that the Arab fairs do not come into conflict.
He pointed out that there is cooperation between the APA and the Qatari Publishers Forum, which is a member of the APA and plays an important role, and that there is continuous communication.
APA representatives recently attended the Doha Book Fair.
Chebaro revealed that following the APA Council election on Sunday, a meeting will be held to prepare an action plan for the new session to address the challenges of Arabic publishing.
In a statement to QNA, the owner and director of the Rosa publishing house, Dr. Aisha Jassim al-Kuwari, said that the publishing process in the Gulf region is modern compared to other Arab capitals, and that the Perhaps the biggest challenge in the region is printing, as it is still the most expensive in the world, hence the publishing industry is not profitable.
She added that profit can be long-term, and anyone entering this field should realize that they are investing in knowledge and building minds before investing in financial resources.
Dr al-Kuwari pointed out that the Gulf region has readers, but the success of the publishing industry requires a broad base of readers as publishing includes various sectors and disciplines from literature, science , knowledge, books for young people and children, as well as translated books. books, to satisfy all reading tastes.
Regarding her experience, she said that it is yet another new experience in Qatar which started in 2017, it was the first publishing house in the proper sense, the first exhibition started with 20 titles and reached 128 titles during of the latest exhibition, 80% of which are by authors from Qatar.
She pointed out that there are still many challenges in publishing in Qatar, expressing hope for an advanced cultural publication with strong content that allows us to face these challenges.
For her part, an Algerian publisher, Dr Asia Moussaoui, said that the most important problems related to this industry are the decline in interest in reading, the lack of interest in books as the most of knowledge, the dependence on the culture of titles, and the spread of electronic or paper piracy, which threatens the book industry in most Arab countries, urging Arab countries to intervene to prevent this piracy, as well as the free circulation of Arabic books.
She pointed out that among the most important challenges are the high prices of paper and maritime transport in the world and the decline in the purchasing power of citizens in many Arab countries with the decline of school libraries and other challenges that make Arab governments a major role in promoting the publishing industry.
The APA is to hold its ordinary general meeting on Sunday, alongside the activities of the 53rd Cairo International Book Fair.
The assembly will discuss the report of the APA Board of Directors on the work of the 2019-2021 session and the election of a new Board of Directors for the 10th APA Session 2022-2024.

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