Syria’s Publishers Echo Common Concerns
Publishers the world over are facing great challenges at the moment and these apply to publishing houses in Syria and the rest of the Arab world as well. In light of the cultural role entrusted to publishing houses as one of the keys to achieving development and advancing the society in terms of knowledge and culture, it is necessary to identify the most prominent of these challenges and devise visions and solutions for them in order to know the prospects and future of the Syrian publishing industry.
The coronavirus pandemic, shortage of labour, and cancellation of book fairs which was a resource for publishing houses to display their latest publications, have greatly impacted the industry in the Arab region.
The publishing sector crisis has exacerbated, prompting the Arab Publishers’ Association to try to find tangible solutions and to think of new ways to save the publishing sector, which has gradually begun to recover to the pre-pandemic levels.
The publishing industry in Syria, which is just recovering from the prolonged multi-sided civil war, faces bigger challenges and is trying to take into account the concerns of society and its national, social, and moral issues. Several publishers in Syria have indicated the challenges they face and practical ways to get around them.
Haitham Al-Hafiz, head of the Syrian Publishers Association states that publishers must have a long history in cultural and economic decision-making and access to major cultural places in the country, which is the basis for the development of the publishing industry and exhibitions, promoting sustainable cultural development.
Al-Hafiz says that the association is working in tandem with various publishers to produce a book worthy of the Arab and Syrian reader in terms of content and quality, and many in the industry have grown and developed during the last five years, overcoming challenges.
Director of Al-Sharq Foundation, researcher and academic Dr. Nabil Tohme, believes that any dealing with culture through publishing must be based on a national model with due importance to Arab publications.
Researcher Dr. Hussein Ragheb, director of Dar Al-Shaab for Printing and Publishing, points out that publishing institutions must focus on conspiracies against the homeland and threats from terrorism that attempts to destabilize the intellectual society and their loyalty to the homeland. “These ideas dominate the publications of Dar Al-Shaab,” adds Ragheb.
For translator Abeer Akl, founder and director of Dar Akl for translation and printing, one of the most prominent manifestations through which the importance of publishing is evident is due to the idea of strengthening the role of civil society in building cultural mobility and community awareness.
“It is necessary for any publishing house to take into account the concerns of society and its national, social, and moral issues,” says Sin House for Printing, Publishing, and Media’s director and researcher Ayham Saqr, noting that “it is the duty of publishing houses to adopt the topics concerned with the approach of resistance and confronting the conspirators.”
Saqr also speaks of how the soaring prices of paper, inks, and other related materials that impacted the print volumes of publications being sold at higher prices have paved way for the growing popularity of digital books over physical books.
In the world of literature, poet Dr. Osama Hammoud, sees a few publishing houses playing a positive role in carefully selecting content and publishing them, while there are also those who go about the business in a commercial way, being mainly profit-oriented and having a negative effect on the cultural content in recent times.
Writer Falak Hosariah is of the opinion that publishing houses can play a positive role if they can combine the elements of profitability as well as the careful selection of topics for the books that they publish, to develop cultural and national awareness.
Perhaps the distinction of the Syrian reality had a great impact on the perceptions of the publishing industry, which is trying to combine the cultural function with economic profitability, a bet that does not seem easy, especially with the conflicts that Syria has witnessed of late and its harrowing effects which will be hard to erase.