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Monday 21 October, 2019

Welcome to Publish MENA #6

The Arab Renaissance steps up a gear

With so many publishing professionals at Frankfurt this week, we've held back Publish MENA #6 a few days to give everyone a chance to get home and return to a more settled routine.

The autumn of 2019 is proving to be a watershed time in the Arab Publishing Renaissance.

Barely has the dust settled on the IPA Middle East Publishing Seminar in Jordan than the IPA is party to an Arab Education Publishing Seminar, this time with the UAE's EPA, set for the end of this month.

And also from the UAE, DCT Abu Dhabi has made a bold statement about how it sees the future of publishing. It's digital.

Staying with the UAE yet again, and Dubai is home to its second Big Bad Wolf book sale.

Meanwhile Sharjah's bookloving ruler has been in Spain at LIBER.

And staying with Sharjah we're now within shouting distance of the annual Sharjah International Book Fair, which this year promises to be a spectacle like no other, as Sharjah is UNESCO World Book Capital this year.

Running parallel with the Sharjah fair will be the Algiers International Book Fair. Both events pulled in more than two million visitors - each - in 2018. Will records be broken? We'll find out in early November.

Breaking news from the Arab publishing world is that Libya's publishing association has been awarded provisional membership of the IPA - the first step to full membership.

And in our global round-up, news about digital books subscription services and some new developments at Publish MENA publisher StreetLib that will have a bearing on MENA publishing.

Welcome to Publish MENA - the digital advantage - #6.

“Digital publishing is the future, and we seek to embrace it wholeheartedly”

2020 Abu Dhabi Int. Book Fair adds digital and audio to its Spotlight On Rights programme

If 2019 has been a year of powerful developments in the Arab publishing world, the new decade looks set to see the Arab Renaissance reach new heights.

2019 of course has been the year of Sharjah as World Book capital (until April 2020) and the year of the first ever IPA Middle East Publishing Seminar.

and, just announced, the first ever Education Publishing Seminar.

More about this seminar  can be found in this edition of Publish MENA.

We’ve seen attendance records at Arab book fairs broken throughout the year (Casablanca, Tunis, Baghdad, Riyadh and Muscat all set new highs – three of them breaking the one million visitors mark) 

and we still have the giants of the Arab book fair world – Algiers and Sharjah – to come.

Both will on past performance bring in more than two million visitors each.

As this post goes live Big Bad Wolf is in Dubai for its second year, with 3 million books on sale in its phenomenal 11-day 24/7 book sale. (See more on Big bad Wolf Dubai in the Publish MENA # 6 story on Dubai Cares.)

It’s in this context that we should see the news that Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi) has added two new grant categories – Digital Books and Audio Books – to its ‘Spotlight on Rights’ programme, which is part of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Spotlight on Rights, which will mark its 12th anniversary at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Book Fair, has long provided translation grants to further the spread of Arab literature worldwide, and facilitated networking opportunities between Arab and international publishers.

But now, DCT Abu Dhabi says in a press release,

with its new Digital and Audiobook categories aids in the digital conversion of content, ensuring its dissemination to worldwide audiences … in light of the growth of the digital publishing sector and the growing demand for audio books.

Abdullah Majid Al Ali, Acting Executive Director of the Dar Al Kutub Sector at DCT Abu Dhabi, said,

We are proud to be leading the way on the latest international trends in publishing and translation, using cutting-edge technologies to translate or disseminate our world-class publications. as a way to further our mission of enabling the wider consumption and appreciation of Arabic literature and Arabic-language content.

The DCT Abu Dhabi press release explains,

Launched in 2009, Spotlight on Rights has contributed to the publication of more than 600 titles across a variety of fields, including children’s books, science, history and social sciences to name but a few. To date, more than 120 publishers have been awarded grants starting from $2,500 for children’s books and up to $4,000 for all other genres, resulting in translations from French, German, Swedish and English amongst other languages.

The Sharjah Book Authority understands social media is publishing's ally, not its enemy

Social media is an essential tool for publishers

With social media a relatively new phenomenon, it's often the case on the international publishing circuit that publishers view twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, Instagram and all the rest as at best a distraction, and at worst the enemy, supposedly luring people away from the pleasures of reading books.

The reality is that social media, used thoughtfully and consistently, can be one of our most powerful weapons in the battle to keep existing readers and lure new readers to our titles.

One of the finest examples of social media use in the Arab publishing world is by the Sharjah Book Authority, which at the Sharjah International Book Fair this year is running some courses on how to get the best out of social media.

This from the Sharjah Book Authority twitter feed.

In the build up to #SIBF (that's the social media hashtag for the Sharjah International Book Fair) the Sharjah Book Authority has a constant stream of tweets in Arabic and English building up excitement and interest in the event, and safe to say social media plays a critical role in the Sharjah book fair being among the largest literary events in the world, regularly attracting over 2 million visitors.

Social media can drive traffic and interest to book events, and be free advertising for books old and new, be they print or digital titles.

But perhaps most importantly, by definition social media is a digital medium, which means, as an added bonus, that everyone we reach via social media is using a device that could also be used to read the digital version of our books.

That's the digital advantage.

"The future of knowledge creation" is the focus of an Educational Publishing Seminar in the UAE 

The second IPA Arab Seminar in as many months

With the IPA Middle East Seminar still fresh, and Frankfurt about to kick off, comes news of a UAE Educational Publishing Seminar in World Book Capital Sharjah’s Publishing City Free Zone to round off the month.

A joint effort by the Emirates Publishers Association, the UAE Ministry of Education and the International Publishers Association (IPA), the first of what looks likely to be an annual two-day event will run October 28-29.

The seminar will include ten discussion panels “and an array of workshops” featuring national, regional and international experts, education publishers and industry specialists, and will offer,

a platform for dialogue on the introduction of new mechanisms in the UAE’s education publishing field.

Emirates Publishers Association President Ali bin Hatim said,

In organising this important seminar, our objective is to keep the UAE’s momentum of positive transformations in the academic sector going. We also seek to increase students’ awareness by introducing more homegrown books to our school curricula. We hope to turn a new leaf in our efforts geared towards building a knowledge-based society to promote our inclusive development process, and reinforce the UAE’s culture and national identity. We are certain this seminar will have a positive impact on the realities of the UAE’s education and publishing landscape.

The seminar will offer a platform to all industry stakeholders to discuss how they can enhance partnerships to further scientific and academic development. We will be engaging in vibrant conversations about how international practices and expertise can be adapted into an actionable framework for the UAE’s curricula.

IPA President Hugo Setzer added,

We are delighted to partner with the Emirates Publishers Association for this seminar. Educational publishers have such a vital role to play if the UAE is to achieve its ambitious education objectives and this seminar promises to set out concrete actions to enable them to do that.

No details yet of the panel discussions, but safe to say we can expect digital solutions to be at the forefront, as per the digital thrust of the Middle East Seminar.

The UAE may only have 9.6 million people, but incredibly 9.3 million of them are online. That’s 98.5% internet penetration.

But the more exciting prospect here is how this Education Publishing Seminar in the UAE will ripple out across the region and across the globe in the weeks and months after the event.

Million-subscriber digital books service Scribd offers enhanced localised presence in Mexico, with 60,000 Spanish titles

The digital advantage around the world

Despite being one of the oldest subscription services for digital books, Scribd rarely makes the industry headlines, preferring to pursue a path of quiet but steady development.

Those who remember the early days of subscription will remember Scribd and Oyster going head to head in the US, and when Oyster fell few doubted Scribd’s days were numbered too.

When Amazon decided it too would launch an ebook subscription service it seemed to many to be the final nail in Scribd’s coffin.

Scribd had other ideas.

In 2019 Scribd is still with us, and started this year with a wake up call that it was still in the subscription game, announcing it had surpassed one million subscribers.

Now Scribd announces an impressive revamp of its Mexico presence with a new “localized reading experience for the Mexico market” that offers over 60,000 Spanish-language titles.

In a press release Scribd explains,

Over the past few years, Scribd has seen a significant increase in readers from Mexico engaging with its digital library of ebooks and audiobooks, which led to the company's decision to build a first-class reading experience in the country. In addition to making several improvements to localize the product experience and enhance content recommendations, the company has established new relationships with publishing partners to diversify the content offering. Partners include leading Spanish-language publishers such as Planeta, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, Anagrama, Sexto Piso and El Colegio de México.

The localization efforts for the Mexico market are a key piece of Scribd's larger expansion strategy in Latin America, which represents an enormous opportunity for the company to establish itself as a global reading service and further the company's mission: to change the way the world reads.

Scribd currently has over 1 million paying subscribers and draws in more than 100 million unique visitors to its platform per month. The full catalog includes over 1 million premium titles and 80 million documents, and readers have spent 190 million hours of reading on the platform to date.

These are remarkable numbers, so it should come as no surprise that Scribd has enhanced its Mexico offering.
The surprise is that it has taken so long and that it is not happening more often.

Being everywhere is of course half the battle, but the other half is in localised engagement with content suppliers and with audiences.

Storytel, which also crossed the one million subscriber mark this year –

exemplifies this approach, and its success speaks for itself.

Glocalisation (globally local) remains one of Scribd’s weak points.

As an American company with a global presence Scribd is doing a great job, but if it is to get that next million subscribers before Storytel then we need to see more glocalised initiatives like Mexico.

Will we see a localised Scribd operation in the Arab markets in the next decade?

My guess is that's very likely, but of course it cannot happen until Arab publishers pick up and run with the digital baton, as DCT Abu Dhabi is now doing (per story above in Publish MENA #6) .

Libya gains provisional IPA membership

New members at the International Publishers Association

This is very much a breaking news story that we can hopefully update in the next edition of Publish MENA.

For now, Publishing Perspectives reports from the Frankfurt Book Fair.

There have been several member-state updates to the world body’s roster reported to us overnight, formalized by votes in the IPA’s general assembly on Thursday, seated at Messe Frankfurt during the fair. Prior to the week’s general assembly, the membership comprised 81 organizations from 69 countries in Africa, Asia, Australaisia, Europe, and the Americas.

The publishers’ association in Côte d’Ivoire—an organization called Assedi—has been voted into full IPA membership, a recognition accepted by Assedi’s president, Anges Félix N’Dkapri.

In addition, the publishers’ associations of three markets have been made provisional members (the standard step preparatory to full membership), and those are the associations of Russia, Ghana, and Libya.

A glance at the IPA  members list show a a fair number of MENA countries are on board with the IPA, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE.

Digital books streaming service YouScribe on target for 300,000 African subscribers by end 2019

The digital advantage around the world

When we think of digital books subscription services it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture as we focus on Storytel, Nextory, Bookbeat, Audible, Ubook and a host of other players targeting consumers in North America, Latin America and Europe.

Africa in particular comes in for some serious looking the other way by the publishing industry, with the consensus being that digital books outside of South Africa have no hope of taking off, despite, as we’ve stressed here at TNPS, there being more Africans online than most people, on the continent or beyond realize.

In June the latest figures revealed Africa had just shy of 525 million internet users.

That’s more Africans online than the online populations of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany combined.

Okay, so that puts to bed that faux narrative that Africans haven’t got the internet. How about the small problem of getting Africa interested in any books, let alone digital books?

At TNPS the argument has long been that this is a chicken and egg problem. Make books available, accessible and affordable and readers and listeners will come. And what better way to do that than with a digital subscription service?

This month comes confirmation in stunning fashion.

First some background.

A year ago this October TNPS reported that YouScribe had partnered with Orange to bring digital books to francophone Africa.

And that in turn came on the heels of Orange engaging with other digital providers to open up francophone sub-Saharan Africa.

Elsewhere in Africa while South Africa was well-served, Nigeria was beginning to embrace digital, and Algeria and Egypt had telco-operated ebook stores, most of the continent had little or no commercial access to digital books.

Other notable exceptions being Kenya's Ekitabu and the free-reading app Worldreader, both doing wonderful work, but neither addressing the need for a pan-African commercial platform for digital books.

Then earlier this year France-based YouScribe began an expansion of its Africa game.

In particular a launch in Senegal produced stellar results, with 100,000 new subscribers in the first two months, while across YouScribe’s Africa markets the company saw 100,000 new subscribers just in August.

Across Africa YouScribe expects to top 300,000 subscribers by the end 2019, with a heavy tilt towards education, thanks to a partnership with La Sonatel. But don’t let that detract from the enormity of the news here.

Let’s just hear that last number again so it sinks in. YouScribe expects to have 300,000 digital subscribers in Africa by end 2019.

Here’s the to-date graphic from YouScribe, lest we should be in any doubt.

As we’ve long said at TNPS, make digital content available, accessible and affordable and consumers in Africa and the Middle East will respond the same as anywhere else, rushing to enjoy the opportunity.

Working with telcos is a particularly efficient way to achieve the three goals of availability, accessibility and affordability in emerging markets like Africa, and one YouScribe understands well.

Thanks to content publishing partners YouScribe has the title availability that makes the service appealing.

Accessibility is an issue in regions like West Africa or Madagascar, where traditional paper & ink book production and distribution poses enormous challenges.

And of course those same production and distribution challenges force up the end-price consumers are expected to pay.

A digital streaming service cuts through these problems with ease once the content producers are on board to deliver products in digital formats.

With 525 million people online across the continent accessibility is a simple matter of finding platforms to deliver the content to eager consumers, and what better way than through the smartphone in their hands?

The telco also eliminates that other emerging market obstacle to reading – being able to make a payment. No need for credit cards or even mobile wallets. Simply buy telco credit for your phone with local currency cash and the subscription or download fee is deducted from that credit.

That also solves the affordability issue, with digital downloads available less expensively than their print counterparts, and with the subscription model there’s an even better deal for consumers, that in turn rewards publishers because more books are read or listened to.

Which brings us back to YouScribe’s partnership with Orange.

It’s only YouScribe’s first year with Orange but already YouScribe African subscriber numbers put the operation in the same ball park as the smaller Scandinavian subscription players. And as we’ll see below, even with Storytel.

With Africa expected to easily top 800 million people online in the next decade, the potential of digital to transform the African book markets is clear, and the early numbers from YouScribe show that, far from hype, this is achievable reality.

To put YouScribe’s achievement in context, Storytel first stepped outside the Nordics in 2013, with its Demark and Netherlands launches.

Today comes news from Storytel that the company’s non-Nordic subscriber base totals 278,400 across almost twenty countries.

YouScribe expects to hit 300,000 subscribers by end 2019 in the space of fifteen months, and with just a handful of African countries.

How to get books onto YouScribe?

StreetLib has it covered.

Sudan’s 15th Khartoum International Book Fair is the first without censorship

The first Khartoum book fair since the fall of Al Bashir

Sudan’s road to democracy had a significant boost this week with the announcement by the Sudanese government that there would be no censorship at the 15th Khartoum International Book Fair that runs October 17-19.

At a press conference Sudan’s Minister of Culture and Information, Faisal Mohamed Salih, said,

The 15th session represents continuation of a long and valuable march… Sudan is laying ground for a modern democratic state and experiencing genuine change embedded in full openness in the fair.

So far there have been no reports to give us reason to doubt the sincerity of the new government, which has said that “cultural life is a top priority” in the wake of the Omar Hassan Al Bashir dictatorship being deposed earlier this year.

In 2018 a number of books were banned by the Al Bashir regime.

The Khartoum fair has the participation of 200 domestic and foreign publishing houses, although the breakdown is not yet clear. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, China and South Sudan are among the countries attending.

The Khartoum International Book Fair director, Prof Abdelazim Magzoub, announced that for the first time the event has a hall dedicated to children’s books.

The 2019 edition has had a disappointing turnout of foeign writers and poets, which is attributed to past instability.
Salih has pledged to ensure the 16th Khartoum International Book Fair will be better prepared and better attended.

Minister Salih might want to consider, when addressing this problem, selecting a date for the Khartoum fair that does not coincide with Frankfurt, which as the world’s largest trade event tends to drown out news of smaller events such as this, and is attracting publishing houses that might otherwise have been willing to also participate in the Khartoum event.

Dubai Cares partners with Big Bad Wolf's 3-million book flash sale in the UAE

Big Bad Wolf is behind the world's biggest book sales

Big Bad Wolf is in Dubai for its second year, bringing 3 million (not a typo!) mostly English-language books to the UAE for its famous 11-day 24/7 book sales.

This year Big Bad Wolf has partnered with Dubai Cares, part of Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives.

The Wealthland explains,

As a charity partner for the “world’s biggest book sale”, which (took) place from October 10 to 20, Dubai Cares (hosted) an on-site activation that focuses on the importance of reading as well as learning through play in the early years.

Visitors to Dubai Cares’ activation can enjoy a learn-and-play space that explores how learning through play is vital for the development of the brain and how it helps build children’s communication skills.

Visitors will also get the opportunity to donate children’s reading books that are on sale at the book fair, by dropping them in the donation boxes after checkout. Collected books will be delivered to the McMillan Public Library in Nairobi, Kenya and hospitals across the UAE, in partnership with International Publishers Association and ‘Wanna Read’, respectively.

Big Bad Wolf, for anyone unfamiliar, is based in Malaysia but tours cities across southern Asia with massive book sales, typically eleven days long and mostly running 24 hours a day, and despite carrying mainly English-language books it attracts huge crowds.

As of August Big Bad Wolf had visited 25 cities in 2019, selling 25 million books to over 3 million visitors.

Speaking about the partnership, Dubai Cares CEO Dr Tariq Al Gurg said,

We are delighted to partner with Big Bad Wolf for the very first time, and we hope this collaboration will be the first of many more to come. This partnership with two entities committed to education and learning makes perfect sense on so many levels. I was very happy to visit the exhibition … and witness the enthusiasm among members of the community towards the wide array of books on display as well as the amazing deals on offer. 

All told this year so far, Big Bad Wolf has also been in Myanmar twice (Yangon in February with 1 million books, Mandalay in May with 1 million books), the Philippines (Pasay City in February with 2 million books, and Cebu in August), South Korea (Seoul, 2 million books), Taiwan (Taipei, 2 million books), Thailand (Bangkok, 3 million books), Sri Lanka (Colombo, 1.5 million books). UAE (Dubai, 3 million books) and has made at least seven events in Malaysia.

Then there's the big end of year event in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) still to come, and we cannot rule out further visits to the countries already mentioned, and possible further debuts in new countries in this, the tenth anniversary of the Big Bad Wolf events.

Big Bad Wolf never fails to surprise, and while of course these are remaindered books bought from mainstream western publishers and so offered at very low prices, the story here is not about price but about demand..

With every event, Big Bad Wolf is demonstrating the huge demand for English language books in countries where English is not the first language.

That’s something Arab publishers would do well to think about, as translations into English are likely to find a warm reception in the domestic as well as foreign markets.

Emirates Literature Festival on twitter

Social media is not the enemy

The Emirates Literature Festival twitter feed is a must-follow for news not just about the LitFest but for information and entertainment abut the Arab publishing and literature.

The Emirates Lit Fest has over 24,000 followers on twitter.

Qatar's HBKU at Frankfurt Book Fair

Arab publishing at Frankfurt

Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) has been participating in the 2019 Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt International Book Fair).

A press statement explained,

HBKU Press’s booth represent(ed) over 10 years of the publishing house’s catalogue of acclaimed works and innovative publications, from award-winning original titles in both English and Arabic, to translated works by globally recognised authors and translators, a press statement notes.

At Frankfurter Buchmesse, HBKU Press plan(ned) to promote the brand internationally, enter into agreements to buy and sell the rights of books that meet their strategic vision, while establishing relationships with entities that can expand the reach of their titles. “Each year, we are proud to boast of HBKU Press’s many achievements to our colleagues in the publishing industry around the world,” explains Bachar Chebaro, executive director of HBKU Press. “This past year has been particularly rewarding as several of our books have won international awards and honours, among them the works of local Qatari and Arab talents.

“By highlighting and helping facilitate the dissemination of local talent and local narratives to different regions across the globe, it is exciting to see that each year there is a marked rise in interest in HBKU Press as we continue to form new relationships and solidify existing ones with publishers around the globe.”

This is one more example of a strong Arab presence at Frankfurt, reflecting the growing momentum of the Arab Renaissance.

Read more about the HBKU report in the Gulf Times.

In Algeria the biggest cultural event is a book fair. Will the Algiers IBF break its 2.3 million visitor record this year with its focus on young authors?

Little noticed beyond MENA, the Algiers IBF is one of the world's biggest book fairs

In Algeria the 24th Algiers International Book Fair gets underway at end October, running parallel with the Sharjah International Book Fair in the UAE.

While Sharjah is a major international event (all the more so this year as it is also UNESCO World Book Capital) making every effort to attract a global audience, the Algiers event is very much Arabic and French, and comparatively insular, focusing on the Arab markets.

This year 1030 publishing houses are participating, with 298 from Algeria, 323 from other Arab countries and 409 from the rest of the world, with 34 countries represented. Senegal is Guest of Honour.

Algeria will be represented by 298 publishing houses. The Arab countries mark their presence with 323 publishers, against 409 from the rest of the world. "The book, a continent" is the slogan chosen this year at SILA. 

In 2018 the Algiers event attracted 2.3 million visitors, according to the SILA (from the French Salon du Livre International d’Alger) website (a revised figure on the 2.2 million reported in the media at end 2018).

At a pre-event press conference on Saturday (Oct. 19) SILA Commissioner Mohamed Iguerb told a press conference at the El Hama National Library in Algiers,

Senegal's participation as a guest of honor coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Pan African Cultural Festival (Panaf), which will be celebrated this year, in the presence of Algerian and African men of letters and historians who will discuss themes related to relations African languages, literature and thought in Africa. The first Panaf was organized in Algeria in 1969, the second in 2009.

Algerian novelists Waciny Laredj, Smail Yabrir and Samir Kacimi, Senegalese poet Hamidou Sall, Jordanian writer Ibrahim Nasrallah, American activist Elaine Mokhtefi, and French historian Olivier Le Cour Grand-Maison are among the guests, but this year there will be a focus on young writers.

Iguerb said,

It's a priority. We want to make young authors better known to the Algerian public. The opportunity will be given to young writers to shine, especially the winners of literary awards Assia Djebbar, Ali Maachi, Yasmina Mechakra and Mohamed Dib.

This year Algeria Post, the Algerian postal service, has issued a new stamp to mark SILA as the country’s most important cultural event.

With a population of 42.6 million Algeria is a potential book market on par with Spain (46.4 million).

Internet penetration is only at 59.6%, but that’s still 25.2 million people online – 8 million more than the Netherlands and more than twice as many as Sweden, making Algeria a potentially exciting digital books market.

Algeria has two ebook stores operated by Algérie Télécom. One is in French – Fimaktabati – and one in Arabic - Nooonbooks.

For those still unconvinced Algeria is an exciting book market, check out this TNPS post from 2018 on Algerian reading habits.

Germany to be Guest of Honour at 2021 Abu Dhabi Book Fair

Arab publishing's international engagements are increasing

As the biggest trade event in the world, the Frankfurt Book Fair has so much happening it’s hard to keep track. Alongside the big announcements that capture the international headlines are a ton of smaller announcements that lubricate the international publishing industry.

One such was confirmation that Germany, home to the Frankfurt event, would be Guest of Honour at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Frankfurt Buchmesse CEO Juergen Boos signed the agreement with Saif Ghobash, undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi (Department of Culture & Tourism), witnessed by Faisal Al Sheikh, the director of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

The UAE’s The National reported Boos as saying the Frankfurt and Abu Dhabi events had tied going back over a decade.

It was a bond, Boos says, that began when the Frankfurt International Book Fair worked with the former director of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the late Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, who was also known as Abu Khalaf.

“We definitely have a shared history. With my dear friend Abu Khalaf we worked jointly in developing the book business in Abu Dhabi and the Middle East,” he says.

“But this is different because this is not the Frankfurt Book Fair participating, but Germany being invited as the guest of honour. So there is a cultural and political dimension to it.”

Boos says that work has already begun with wide selection of German sectors tapped to participate in Abu Dhabi in 2021.

“There have been cultural presentations but there is also an economic focus as well, because there will be discussions about the sales of book rights and the rest,” he says.

“It is also important to note that it is not all just one way. We will bring a delegation of authors and people of culture to meet and exchange with their Abu Dhabi counterparts.”

The national also reported on Abu Dhabi’s participation at Frankfurt this year:

On October 17, the 2019 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winner for Children’s Literature, Kuwait’s Hussain Al Mutawaa, (took) part in a panel session discussing the characteristics German and Arabic children's books.
October 18 (saw) Emirati author Hessa Al Mehairi, launch her 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winning children's title The Dinoraf, in Italian, French and English.

October 19 (saw) the Abu Dhabi headquartered publisher Kalima, will launch the Arabic translation of Syria Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi, a cookbook by author Hanan Sayed Worrel, featuring recipes from more than 40 people various nationalities who still live in the capital.

That’s a picture being painted around the globe as Arab publishers engage ever more actively with international trade events, on a scale unimaginable just a few years ago.

The Arab Renaissance continues apace.

Upwards of 4 million Arabs are preparing to attend two MENA book fairs next month. But still we’re told Arabs don’t read

Challenging faux narratives

It’s a sad fact that Arab book fairs pass largely unnoticed by the outside world, and often even by other Arab nations.

Take the Amman International Book Fair that ran late September into October.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it was overshadowed in news terms by the IPA Middle East Seminar in Amman.

With the slogan “Reading is Life”, and Tunisia as Guest of Honour, the 19th incarnation event saw the participation of 22 countries and 350 Arab and foreign publishing houses, 63 of which came from the Arab world’s biggest nation, Egypt.

The event, which this year had the political theme "Jerusalem, the Capital of Palestine," was organised by the Jordanian Publishers Union, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and the Greater Amman Municipality. 

Later this month the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Algiers International Book Fair kick off with parallel dates.

On past performance both fairs will attract – each – in excess of two million visitors -

- and Sharjah is likely to break records as it is also the UNESCO World Book Capital.

Obviously we won’t know the final numbers until after the events close in November, but it’s worth savouring that expectation. 

Over a roughly two week period in early November, over 4 million Arabs will be attending book fairs across two MENA countries at opposite ends of the region. But still we're told Arabs don't read.

38th Sharjah International Book Fair announces Arab author guest list

"A stellar group of award-winning Arab authors, intellectuals and poets"

“Open Books Open Minds” is the theme for this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair, an event which regularly attracts over two million visitors, and this year is likely to set new records as Sharjah is also the UNESCO World Book Capital.

The Arab author guest list has just been announced, and rather than try wade through the list for highlights, which would be subjectively informed by my woefully inadequate familiarity with Arab authors, I’m going to break with Publish MENA protocol and run the entire press release below.
Sharjah, 16 October 2019:The 38th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) under the theme ‘Open Books Opens Minds’, will see a stellar group of award-winning Arab authors, intellectuals and poets, participating in a variety of events, including literary seminars, panel discussions and poetry evenings during the 11-day fair from October 30 – November 9, at the Expo Centre Sharjah.

The guests’ list includes two authors from Algeria – Wasini Al Araj, the author of ‘The Jasmine Necklace’ and ‘The Andalucian House’; and Ahlam Mosteghanemi, the author of‘ Memory in the Flesh’, for which she won the 1998 Naguib Mahfouz Award; Egyptian novelist Ahmed Murad, author of the book ‘Blue Elephant’; and Omani author Jokha Alharthi, the first Arabic-language writer to win the prestigious Man Booker International Prize.

Other guests include Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi, whose novels ‘The American Granddaughter’, ‘Tashari’, and ‘The Outcast’ were shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF); and Habib Al Sayah, Algerian novelist, translator and winner of the Algerian novel award in 2003. His novel ‘Me and Haim’ was longlisted for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

Among the other illustrious guests are Hesham Al Jakh, an Egyptian poet; Mohammed al-Sakran, a Saudi Poet; Jalal Bargas, a Jordanian poet and novelist who made the longlist of the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF); Buthaina Al Issa, a Kuwaiti writer and novelist; Dr. Iman Yehia, an Egyptian writer and translator; Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis, a Saudi Arabian novelist; Dr. Shahla Ujayli, a Syrian novelist and Professor of Modern Arabic Literature and Cultural Studies at the American University in Jordan; Dr. Mbarek Rabi, a Moroccan award-winning writer; and Mohammed Abi Samra, a Lebanese novelist

Iraqi novelist Maysalun Hadi; Fahd Al Atiq, a writer from Saudi Arabia; Bushra Khalfan, a novelist and storyteller from Oman; Jar Al Nabi Al Hilu, a novelist and storyteller from Egypt; Jamila Mejri, a poet from Tunisia; Dr. Dheya Abdullah Khamis Al Kaabi, an academic and critic from Bahrain; Dr. Fahad Hussain, a literary narrative critic from Bahrain; Dr. Mohamed Ait Mayhoub, a writer and critic from Tunisia; and Muhammad Khudayyir, a novelist from Iraq, are also on the guest list.

Other Arabic personalities to be hosted at SIBF 2019 include: Dr. Hilal Al-Hajri, a poet and academic from Oman; Dr. Ahmed bin Issa bin Hilal Al Hilali, an academic from Saudi Arabia; Elias Fathur Rahman Ahmed, a poet from Sudan; academic Dr. Bonyan Saud Turki; Dr. Shukri Aziz Al Madi, Professor of Contemporary Literary Criticism and Theory at the University of Jordan; Mohammed Al Mazouz, a writer and research professor of political anthropology from Morocco; Mishel Hamad, a writer from Kuwait; Mansoura Ez Eldin, a novelist from Egypt; Qoutayba Neaimi, Iraqi researcher, composer and musician; Hamdan Dammag, a novelist from Yemen; Al Mokhtar Salem, novelist, and Ahmed Abdel Qader, poet, both from Mauritania; Elias Fathurahman, a poet from Sudan; and Mariam Meshtawi a writer from Lebanon.

The upcoming edition of SIBF will offer a rich literary and cultural programme, featuring a vibrant mix of seminars, discussion panels, reading sessions and poetry evenings as well as book signing ceremonies that will offer the latest Arabic titles in the market to book lovers.


Publish MENA publisher StreetLib extends Rights partnership with Nakiri


Nakiri is no stranger to the Arab markets

First announced in May 2019 during the Geneva Book Fair, the collaboration between Italy-based StreetLib and France-based Nakiri has moved forward. The two-company collaboration aims to connect authors and publishers from all over the world with francophone publishing players and vice versa. StreetLib CEO Giacomo D’Angelo and Nakiri co-founders Rosine Zadi and Corentin Emery announce the details of their alliance in the following release:

Two Book-Tech Startups On A Mission To Globalize Publishing

Nakiri and StreetLib envisage a time where publishers, authors, and creators can have their works available for everyone, anywhere in the world. Both companies are developing hands-on tech solutions to serve their mission, and with cross-sectors teams, StreetLib and Nakiri operate at an international level developing local and global partnerships.

StreetLib provides a global publishing platform to distribute digital books, audiobooks and print-on-demand books (POD) all over the world. It has a distribution network of 250+ retailers, subscription streaming services and library partners across tens of thousands of consumer points, and offers a one-stop platform for both self-publishers and for publishing houses of all sizes.

Nakiri’s mission is to foster international trade among the publishing community and creative professionals interested in acquiring publishing content. As part of its mission, Nakiri has developed as its main product Nakiri Rights, a pioneer online marketplace for publishers to sell and buy foreign rights as well as licensing content. For any publishing rights deal, Nakiri gives its users the best environment to begin collaborations.
Contributing to a new action model to help authors and publishers make the most of their publishing journey in a hyper-connected and truly global publishing world.

With roots in Italy and France StreetLib and Nakiri rely on their respective international networks across six continents to provide unique global reach and to act as relays to enable as many parties as possible to benefit from their solution.

Starting October 2019, A Dedicated Program For Italian Publishers And Indie Authors

From October 2019, Nakiri and StreetLib will implement their partnership introducing a high-end integrated offer covering distribution and rights valorization.

Foreign rights trade is popular among Italian publishers but remains a time-consuming activity with complex legal and cultural dimensions which can be challenging for even the largest publishers. For independent authors, those same complex legal and cultural dimensions, combined with a lack of knowledge and experience, make profiting from foreign rights transactions all the more challenging.

StreetLib’s proposition is to introduce Nakiri as a way for Italian publishers, indie authors and international publishers within their network to be fully equipped with a distribution solution as well as being assisted in their rights activity (whether buying or selling).

Next Developments Are Set To Bring Innovation In Use For StreetLib And Nakiri Customers

Giacomo D’Angelo and Rosine Zadi go further on delivering a joint statement:

Our partnership is about testing and learning together to offer the most adapted and relevant offer to our customers.

Before introducing our offer publicly both our teams have been working with publishers in order to assess their needs on distribution and rights. This constant approach of co-creating our offer with our end-users will lead in the following weeks into concrete plugins between StreetLib and Nakiri platforms.

We started with a sample but our ambition is to simplify the work of anyone with distribution and rights management needs.

Publishers and indie authors using one platform will be able to switch to the other one because that’s how international publishing should be: about bridging opportunities and having a global outlook.

StreetLib & TNPS launch free bi-weekly B2B newsletter for self-published authors


Pubish MENA 's publisher StreetLib has always welcomed professional self-published authors

Committed to supporting all publishers, from individual self-publishers to the biggest corporate publishers, Italy-based digital books distributor and publishing facilitator StreetLib continues to expand its range of Value Added Services.

Subscriptions are open for StreetLib’s third bi-weekly B2B newsletter, this time with professional self-published authors as the audience.

Titled Publish Global — serious about self-publishing, the latest newsletter, a joint production between StreetLib and its trade journal The New Publishing Standard (TNPS) which lines up alongside sister newsletters Publish Africa and Publish MENA, will start landing in subscriber inboxes on Friday 25 October.

StreetLib CEO Giacomo D’Angelo explained,

Self-publishing authors have been at the heart of our operation since 2006, a year before Amazon launched the first Kindle store, and while we work with publishers large and small around the world we have always embraced and encouraged the self-publishing community.

Self-publishing provides an entry point for authors starting out on their careers, and a chance for established authors to re-publish rights-reverted material and, when so desired, to go it alone and publish on their own terms, at their own speed, and to experiment with publishing models in ways that simply wouldn’t be possible with a standard publishing contract.

Our new newsletter B2B Publish Global targets professional self-publishers and hybrid authors looking to maximise their global reach and potential. B2B because these authors are for all practical purposes operating small presses, even though they may be the only author.

The newsletter will be compiled by our TNPS Editor-In-Chief Mark Williams, himself an accomplished hybrid author, who has topped the charts in the UK, France and China.

For TNPS, Mark Williams added,

On the self-publishing circuit Amazon is often the only topic of conversation, but while Amazon is unquestionable the powerhouse of western self-publishing, its reach is limited globally, and even in the markets where Amazon dominates there is still ample room for authors to do well by ‘going wide’.

Professional indie authors who are serious about self-publishing constantly query TNPS about how they might reach the global markets beyond the usual suspects, and also look out for other publishing news covered by TNPS and ask how this impacts on their position as indie authors.

Publish Global will shine the spotlight on news, topics and opportunities that are particularly relevant to indie authors, and offer insights and evaluations that would perhaps be out of place in the (mostly) daily TNPS reports.

In keeping with the tradition of The New Publishing Standard, Publish Africa and Publish MENA, Publish Global will be free of charge and will not carry advertising or affiliate links.

The newsletter is now open to subscribe to, and Issue #1 will go live Friday October 25.

Subscribe here.

Further Reading

Make time on your coffee break to check out these MENA stories:


Sharjah's bookloving ruler has been in Madrid.

His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, visited the El Escorial Library, St. Jerome Royal Church (or Hieronymus Monastery), several museums, monasteries and other historical buildings in Madrid, Spain, on October 10, 2019.

Once the historical residence of the King of Spain and known to house one of most extensive libraries in the world, the El Escorial houses a rare collection of more than 45,000 articles including books, maps, manuscripts, coins, sculptures, and drawings. Of particular interest are the volumes on philosophy, poetry and politics in Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Arabic, Persian and other languages, many of which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

Read more over at the Sharjah blog.

Not content with being in Spain, His Highness also made a trip to Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Unsurprisingly, Al Qasimi visited the Sharjah and Emirati pavilions.

Read more over at Sharjah24.

Breaking news from ArabLit: 

The Library of Arabic Literature has opened a SoundCloud channel to feature conversation with the LAL fellows and translators about their upcoming projects:

Current discussions include talks with Bilal Orfali on wise fools, Maurice Pomerantz on the magic of words, and Marcel Kurpershoek on Nabati and classical poetries.

Stay tuned to ArabLit for updates on this.

Finally, Kuwaiti author Hussain Al Mutawaa, winner of the 2019 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Children's Literature, on writing for children.

Read more over at the UAE's The National.

That's it for this edition of Publish MENA. We'll be back to our regular schedule in just under two weeks, with Publish MENA #7 expected to start hitting email inboxes on October 31.

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Publish MENA is a bi-weekly review of the MENA publishing scene across all formats, but with an unashamed tilt towards the digital opportunity unfolding.

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Publish MENA is brought to you by Mark Williams


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