ABU DHABI, 22nd May, 2022 (WAM) — The first edition of the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries was launched today as part of the 31st Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF 2022) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).
Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), the Congress highlighted the current trends in the Arabic publishing and content industry, while facilitating dialogue between stakeholders, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs across their various creative platforms.
The Congress welcomed Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), and Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of ALC, along with a host of Arab and international officials, publishers, experts and media representatives.
Special guest speaker Sheikha Bodour launched the event with a Keynote Speech, during which she said, “In recent years, the Arab publishing sector has seen a series of internal debates that are establishing a new understanding of the pivotal role publishing plays, and can play, not only in supporting cultural development but also in supporting the comprehensive development of the people of this region.
“This movement is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it needs to be built on solid foundations so that we can establish a strong, resilient, and sustainable Arab publishing sector. A key factor to ensure the long-term success of the publishing sector in any region around the world, is the full commitment to respect for copyrights and freedom to publish.”
In his address, Dr. Ali bin Tamim said, “The International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries is a new chapter in the vision and legacy of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to consolidate Abu Dhabi’s position as a global cultural hub. We strongly believe in the importance of publishing and creative industries and the role they play in enhancing the presence of our Arabic language, highlighting its aesthetics and defining features, and underlining the impact it has on introducing our culture and identity to the world.
“The International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries brings together the most prominent publishers and experts, marking a significant step towards achieving that vision. Reflecting this commitment, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is building a sustainable cultural sector by investing AED 30 billion as part of its strategy to support the cultural and creative industry and empower its key players from all over the world.”
Ann Hiatt, the American bestselling author, Silicon Valley veteran and investor, said, “Publishing is extremely important for humanity and we have benefited from it throughout history, in the Middle East today, there are many capabilities and an ambitious reality that heralds the transformation of ideas into knowledge on the ground. We must invest in all available opportunities and create content that features the experiences and knowledge to be shared for the benefit of all people around the world.”
The first Panel Discussion of the event, themed ‘Arabic Publishing: Where Are We, and Where Are We Heading?’, explored the leading Arabic publishing markets, the most popular genres and their respective market shares, the market share of digital books, and the importance of imports in serving the Arabic market. Moderated by Carlo Carrenho, Publishing Consultant, the session brought together Sherif Bakr, Publisher at Al Arabi Publishing and Distributing; Shereen Kreidieh, General Manager at Asala Publishing House; Stefanie Lamprinidi, Regional Content Expansion Manager of Storytel; and Rüediger Wischenbart, President and Founder of Content and Consulting.
During the discussions, Sherif Bakr said, “The Arab publishing markets are rising and growing continuously, and there are approximately 450 million speakers of the Arabic language, in addition to the speakers residing abroad. At the same time, statistics indicated that Egypt ranks fifth in the world in terms of the number of readers.” Bakr also pointed out that there are many capabilities that the Arab publishing markets possess, which allow them to develop and grow in the future.
For her part, Shereen Kreidieh said, “There are many factors affecting the publishing industry, and undoubtedly, this is a matter that causes confusion in the sector or pushes it to grow, and in our Arab world, there are many promising models in the field of publishing, especially in light of the presence of a large number of writers, translators and publishing houses, and we can say that the publishing market in the Arab Gulf region is considered one of the most active and powerful markets, especially with regard to the manufacture of books for children, and this is something that helps the media and digital media greatly in developing publishing mechanisms.”
Stefanie Lamprinidi gave an explanation about storytelling, as her company provides a service to more than 20 million audiobook subscribers, calling for the development of this type of books, which is witnessing a flourishing reality. In cooperation with its partners, it was able to publish more than 8,000 audiobooks per year. The company entered the Middle East and Africa with more than 2,000 audiobooks, all of which are in Arabic, and owns books in more than 30 languages, the most read books in the world.
Rüediger Wischenbart commented, “There is a need for an ongoing permanent platform that caters to these three areas of concern, and that is how we will overcome the fragmentation in the market. When we have different countries on board, we can work together to create a permanent structure that must focus on reading education. We must take inspiration from other countries and other models, but when we focus on the Arabic publishing market, we need to create our own model.”