12th SIBF Publishers Conference: ‘Demand for e-books grow three-fold even as piracy concerns remain high in Arab markets’
Regional and global publishing industry professionals assert that audio content is generating renewed interest in printed books
Sharjah, October 30, 2022
Arab publishers at the 12th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Publishers Conference have detailed how they are finding innovative tech solutions to present high-value Arabic content to meet the evolving demands of readers even as demand for print continues to escalate in the Arab markets.
On the opening day of the 12th SIBF Publishers Conference at Expo Centre Sharjah, panelists at the session, ‘Digital publishing in the Arab World: How are Arab publishers embracing the digital landscape and who are the major operators?’ said that demand for e-books in the Arab world has increased three-fold during the pandemic while the print sector continues to see a healthy growth.
Ebook market, audio publishing set to grow
The younger generation is discovering the beauty of printed books through digital media, said Eman Hylooz, CEO and co-founder of Abjad Website – Jordan, who moderated the session.
Ali Abdelmoneim Mohamed Ahmed, Digital Publishing Consultant with Liberty Education UK, Egypt, UAE, said: “More publishers are offering platforms online with their books having digital versions. Partnering with audio-ready platforms like Storytel and Audible are also helping publishers find new audiences.”
He added: “E-book sales of classical books increased by 14 percent last year in the markets of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This is apart from the online publications which have increased by 50 percent.”
Although the global Arab population is much larger in size compared to the US population, the number of published titles in the Arab language are less, said Lebanese publisher Salah Chebaro, Founder and CEO of Neelwafurat web platform.
“We publish less than one million book titles annually for 450 million people. We produced 8,000 audiobooks last year while the US markets had 75,000 audio titles. Despite a large interest from readers, only 10 percent of Arabic books are currently digitised. The e-book market is steadily increasing in demand and we need to tap into its potential,” he added.
Digital piracy remains a major concern within the Arab world, opined Jordan’s Doha Alrefae who runs rufoof. She said: “Most publishers shy away from ebooks as they fear the duplication of content. While this is a worldwide issue, regulations are yet to be in place within Arabic online publishing.”
“Technical understanding of digital footprint, monthly subscription models, and serialising online documents will help curb the unlicensed spread of ebooks,” added Doha.
Khaled Ababneh, Business Development Manager at Almotahida Education Group, proposed solutions like the use of watermarking to help with data piracy. “Digital published content should only be deciphered with subscriptions. Using visual or non-visual watermarks, limiting the number of users or devices and the use of content management systems will help regulate consumers,” he said.
Rise of audiobooks
Audiobooks are not a profitable market but are set for an exponential growth, said Govind Deecee of DC Books, India, during the panel discussion titled ‘Emerging Audiobook Markets’, moderated by Nathan Hull, Chief Strategy Officer, Beat Technology, Norway.
“Publishers are curators when it comes to creating audiobooks. While we deal with a fairly small market catering to primarily one Indian regional language, we have realised it is vital to maintain the quality of production in order to garner interest from the younger demographics of the population,” he said.
Ama Dadson, founder and CEO of Akoo Books, Ghana, said the sub-Saharan market for audiobooks is highly focused on mobile technology users and is fast-growing.
“Our storytelling is performative and we have theatre artists who have become voice artists. Authenticity is prime when it comes to local digital publishing. Interactivity in storytelling, especially with AI (artificial intelligence), is what I am looking forward to in the near future,” she said.
The audience for immersive narrative text is all set to increase, said Beatrice Lin, Managing Editor of Co.Mint, South Korea. “We now have stages for published authors who can see their works being narrated by performance artists. Spatial publishing is becoming normal with professional book-telling voices exploring new forms of content,” said Lin, who is also a consultant for Storytel in Seoul.
On Day 1 of the 12th SIBF Publishers Conference, Mariam Al Ali from Sharjah Book Authority also provided key information on applying for the SIBF Translation Grant, a USD300,000 fund exclusively available to Publishers Conference participants.
Following the conference agenda of Day 1, participating publishers, rights professionals and translators engaged in matchmaking sessions with their counterparts from the region and around the world.