24 March 09 | Chad W. Post

This post originally appeared at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair blog.

One of the most interesting panels I’ve attended here at the book fair was the “Business Potentials of Digital Publishing” seminar that took place this afternoon. This is a topic that I’m personally really interested in, and following a few disparaging comments about e-books in the Arab Market Overview session, I couldn’t wait to hear about what kind of digital projects are going on in this region, and what Arab publishers thought of the brave new e-world.

Dalia M. Ibrahim of Nahdet Misr Publishing & Printing in Egypt–which happens to be the Arabic publishers of the Harry Potter books–put forth a strong presentation about the need for e-content, and more importantly, the need to create and distribute this content in a smart fashion. It’s easy to recognize the potential of e-books and other forms of online content, but as Dalia has experienced at Nahdet Misr, where over they past six years they’ve spent a lot on e-projects without receiving a return on investment, there are a lot of obstacles that have to be overcome to make this a viable model.

The way that Dalia and Ramy presented internet use in the Arab world was pretty interesting. According to both of them, although internet use increased by 1000% between 2000 and 2007, only 10% of the searches by Arab users were for “meaningful” information. (Obviously this is a bit of a value judgement, but they compared searching for information about a potential health problem as meaningful versus chatting and IMing as meaningless.) A corollary to this situation is that there is a lack of worthwhile content available online in Arabic. According to Ramy, “unlike the west, there aren’t even very many personal webpages.”

This situation can be seen as a great opportunity, and Dalia called on Arab publishers to invest in the future and start creating e-content so that their future market share will be that much greater. With a lack of immediate economical incentives, she also called for governments and NGOs to supply funding to publishers to allow for the creation of culturally valuable e-content.

Ronald Schild–who works with Libreka! (exclamation point theirs)–provided a slick, well-organized, effective overview of the potentials of the e-book market, providing a case against allowing Amazon and Google to dominate the marketplace, and instead arguing for a more open market with several modes of distribution. He also offered some “best practices” to publishers entering the e-world, including the need to stop piracy, the need to offer your whole catalog as e-books instead of just the best-sellers, the need to leave behind the insanities of DRM, and the need for publishers to “be fast.”

All of this is very interesting, and actually offers one potential solution to the distibution difficulties existing in the Arab world: Instead of trying to figure out how to deliver books from one country to another continent and sell them at a reasonable price, why not just work towards developing e-books, which can be downloaded from anywhere at a (potentially) cheaper price?

Another technology-related solution that’s come up a few times is the idea of decentralized short run printing. Basically, the idea is that there could be ”book centers” in every Arab country equipped with similar short run digital printing equipment. So to avoid shipping costs under this model, a book published by an Egyptian publisher, let’s say, would be digitally sent to the book centers where there is a market for the book (different countries have different censorship standards) and then printed in quanties of 50, or 300, or whatever is needed. (The number that keeps getting bandied about is that the average book sells around 1,500 copies throughout the Arab world.)

Unfortunately, there were only a few Arabic publishers who attended this whole session, but everyone who did was very engaged and excited to talk about all the opportunities that e-publishing presents. And according to Ramy, this is another market that foreign publishers could participate in, and which could serve a way to increase the interactions between Arabic publishers and the rest of the world.

Comments are disabled for this article.
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >