The Qatari Forum for Authors discussed the most important challenges facing the book publishing industry in the Arab world, during its weekly session on cultural issues.
Bachar Chebaro, General Secretary of the Arab Publishers’ Association (APA) and Executive Director of Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press), explained that publishing is a creative process and it is an interconnected series that starts from the writing stage and ends with printing and publication of the book and when one of its links weakens, the entire chain is affected, referring to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Chebaro, the thing that affects the publishing sector the most is the absence of literary rights agents who defend the rights of authors, negotiating book deals and liaising between authors and publishers that connects them to the literary world the world over.
Though there are only a few foreign rights agents in the Middle East to promote publication abroad, the biggest challenge facing publishers is the lack of awareness of the importance of a literary editor and having a network of proper distribution channels.
Chebaro also called for a “revolution” in the distribution of books by storing them online, providing researchers to obtain a book anytime. This will also cut on the cost of publishing with greater transparency between the writer and the publisher.
A study conducted by the APA showed that more than 50% of sales are registered during book fairs, and this trend could be detrimental as sales linked to exhibitions can come to an abrupt halt as witnessed during the pandemic. This is starkly in contrast to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade fair for books which is a major platform for buying and selling publishing rights and a podium for writers and publishers to come together, sadly something that is missing in the Arab world.
Journalist Buthaina Abdel Jalil called on all publishing houses in Qatar to participate in the fellowship programme that will coincide with the 31st Doha International Book Fair, scheduled to occur in the early part of 2022.