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Thursday September 12, 2019

Read, Empower, Transform - The IPA Amman Seminar

The role of reading for the future of the Arab world

With the remit to "take a fresh look at the publishing industry in the region and worldwide to answer the pivotal question: how can reading change the course of history?" the first ever IPA Middle East Seminar is at once a reminder of what this journal, Publish MENA, is about.

Some subscribers have expressed surprise that there is not more Arab publishing news, but like its sister journal Publish Africa and its parent journal The New Publishing Standard, the role of Publish MENA is so much news and a record of what happened this week, as insights and perspectives, and to, like the Amman Seminar itself, "take a fresh look at the publishing industry in the region and worldwide."

Which is why, alongside topical posts about MENA, you'll find posts about how publishing is being transformed around the world.

We are witnesses to, and participants in, a Global New Renaissance, quite unprecedented in human history, where every country, every region, every people and culture and every language can participate on a level playing field.

A Renaissance driven by digital.

Welcome to issue #4 of Publish MENA - the digital advantage.

IPA Amman Regional Seminar speakers announced

Tarek El Bolbol, Alaa Al Sallal and Nour Al Hassan head the digital contingent

With just weeks to go the speaker line-up for the International Publishers Association Middle East Regional Seminar in Amman has been announced.

The event, held by the IPA in collaboration with the Union of Jordanian Publishers (UJP) and under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, will be the third IPA Regional Seminar, after the success of two regional seminars for Africa – first in Nigeria –


and then in Kenya.

The IPA press release explains:

Regional and international speakers will address issues that include digital disruption in the Arab world’s publishing industry, overcoming illiteracy, and bringing digital publishing to the Arab classroom.

Among the key speakers we will be hearing from will be:

Regional –

  • Tarek El Bolbol, Co-founder and CEO of Booklava, the first subscription based Arabic audiobook platform
  • Alaa Al Sallal, CEO of Amman-based online book retailer Jamalon
  • Nour Al Hassan, CEO of Tarjama / Ureed

International –

  • Elisabeth Wood, Senior Director, Digital Publishing and Innovation at World Reader
  • Michael Healy, Executive Director at Copyright Clearance Centre (CCC)
  • Caroline Morgan, Chief Executive at the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO)

Regional government –

  • President of the Senate in Jordan, Faisal El-Fayez
  • Jordan Minister of state for Media Affairs and government spokesperson, Jumana Ghenemat
  • UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Noura Al Kaabi
  • Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama
  • Minister of State, Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh.

For the Union of Jordanian Publishers, Fathi Al Biss said,

We are delighted to be working with the IPA to bring publishers and their partners together from across the region to turn our challenges into opportunities. Together, we can help Arab publishers make the most of the digital revolution and reach more readers.

IPA President, Hugo Setzer, added

Our events in Lagos and Nairobi have already shown how valuable regional discussions are. Not only are they extremely valuable to the local publishers who attend, but those discussions, challenges, and solutions also resonate with other publishers around the world. It’s an honour to be able to work with the Union of Jordanian Publishers to have the same impact in the Middle East.

Big Bad Wolf returns to Dubai in October, with 3 million books

Arabs don't read? Don't tell the Big Bad Wolf


With one month to go it’s now official that Big Bad Wolf, the Malaysia-based flash-book-sale operation that takes literally millions of English-language books to countries that routinely do not speak English, is back in the UAE in October for its second year.

As with the debut event in 2018, the 2019 incarnation will again see 3 million books laid on to delight booklovers, and all at crazy-low prices.

Once again the event is being held at Dubai Studio City, and as usual it will involve eleven days of 24-hour non-stop book-buying.

Initial media reports suggest the 3 million books will comprise English and Arabic titles, but from past experience we can expect English-language titles to be by far the larger component.

The announcement comes as Big Bad Wolf is engaged with two on-going book sales in Malaysia and Indonesia.

At home base in Malaysia the Big Bad Wolf team will be working on the end of year spectacular in Kuala Lumpur to sign off this tenth anniversary year, meaning we still have over three months to fit in more Big Bad Wolf sales, and just possibly new countries.

This year Big Bad Wolf debuted in Myanmar and Pakistan.

Big Bad Wolf is also set to return to Sri Lanka in October.

As reported on TNPS in August, Big Bad Wolf had in the first seven months of 2019 visited 25 cities, attracting 3 million visitors and selling 25 million books.

While this post is all about print book sales, it delivers a clear lesson for publishers within and beyond MENA - that if quality books are offered at affordable prices the readers are out there.

Almost a quarter of Norway's book sales are digital downloads

Digital delivering results around the world


One of the elegant beauties of digital is that it drives interest in all books, not just the format. Digital offers consumers new discovery points and streaming services give consumers the chance to try new authors at no risk, that lead to new sales across formats.

The latest example comes from Norway where first quarter reports of a downturn in book sales (total sales down 6.8% and general book sales down 5.5%) evolved into a small but noticeable upturn in Q2, and an increase of 3.8% over H1 2018.

As Norway’s publishing trade journal Bok365 reports,

Norwegians read and listen to more books than before. In the first half of the year, book sales in the general market increased by 0.5 per cent compared with the first half of 2018. In particular, streaming and sales of e-books show great progress, and digital sales now account for almost a quarter of total sales.

Norwegian publishers reported H1 revenue of NOK 487 million ($54 million) in the general market, up from NOK 484 million in the first half of 2018.

Print fiction sales saw a stunning 42.2% increase over H1 2018.

Norwegian Publishing Association CEO Kristenn Einarsson said,

The negative trend is reversed and it feels fantastic! I never think the need and interest in good stories and learning has been greater, now it will be exciting to see if progress continues into the book harvest, there is reason to hope so.

A reminder in winding up this post that Norway is a country of just 5.4 million people, but with internet penetration at 98.4% that means there are 5.3 million Norwegians online, so no surprise digital books are where the action is heading.

Norway's 5.5 million people online puts it on par with Lebanon (5.5 million), a little ahead of Oman (4.0 million) and Kuwait (4.1 million) and a little behind Syria (6.3 million).

This post first appeared on TNPS.

VIMN launches Nickelodeon ebook subscription service BooKids in France


Digital in action around the world

Launching with 200 titles, and aiming to add ten new titles each month, BooKids by Nickleodeon is a new ebook subscription service from Viacom International Media Networks.

Costing €6.99 per month and available on Android and iOS and also as an add-on through VIMN’s pay-TV partners, BooKids by Nickelodeon,

provides mobile subscribers with access to an exclusive digital library of kids’ books from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

Title series will include SpongeBob, PAW Patrol, Ninja Turtles, The Loud House, Dora the Explorer, Shimmer and Shine and Blaze and the Monster Machines, with the digital library split into two age groups (3 to 7 years old and 6 to 12 years old).

The press release notes content will be available in the following formats,

  • « AUDIO BOOKS»: children can read along while listening to the story, improving their reading abilities
  • « ILLUSTRATED BOOKS » for toddlers
  • « CHAPTER BOOKS » for grown ups
  • « ACTIVITY BOOKS » books with interactive games: drawing, coloring, puzzles

The venture is not new, just new to France. In the US a version called Nick Jr.  has been available since January 2017.

In reference to the launch in France Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of VIMN Southern and Western Europe, Middle East and Africa and president of digital mobile strategy for VIMN said,

We’re very excited to announce the launch of our first mobile e-book service of Nickelodeon content in France. BooKids by Nickelodeon is an innovative digital library that will give kids and families even more ways to interact with our content, now available via our e-book app on all their mobile devices.

The bigger picture: This is just one more in a continuous roll-out of digital reading subscription services that are slowly but steadily eroding the traditional bookselling model, with consumption that is often untracked and unremarked by the stats counters that tell us the health of the book markets.

Egyptian comics and magazines for children

Tapping into the human desire for continuity and serialisation

"On the Importance of Egyptian Children’s Magazines and the Boom in YA" is the title of a post over at ArabLit, which features and interview with children’s book author, critic, and translator Ahmed Al-Mahdi.

Al-Mahdi writes for Egypt’s Fares magazine.

Al-Mahdi was asked,

Why are kids’ magazines important? What do they do that children’s books don’t?


Ahmed Al-Mahdi: Children’s literature in general is very important; as Philip Pullman said, “Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play.”

Magazines are important part of children’s literature, and there are many differences to distinguish them from books. There is the excitement of waiting for the new issue every week or month. I remember that, when I was a kid, I was excited for Thursdays because that was the day my father would buy us three children’s magazines that were issued every Thursday: Bulbul (it was published by Akhbar Al-Yawm and now it’s called Fares), Aladdin (it was published by Al-Ahram), and Mickey, a Walt Disney comic that was published by Al-Helal and later by Nahdet Masr). There were other magazines, but those three were the ones I read the most. I can remember the excitement and happiness of getting the magazines, and sometimes they came with a CD or videotape of the cartoon or videogames; this was something very special.

Head over to ArabLit for the full post and Q&A.

Here just to savour those childhood memories of getting new reading material every week. 

Magazines and comics are often seen as a separate publishing universe from book publishing, but savvy publishers can enjoy the benefits of both worlds, and of course in both print and digital editions.

And with digital serialisation and subscription is easy and practical with even the shortest of works. No page limits or spine limits, and distribution, once the content is in the right channels, is as simple as going to the app on your smartphone.

As per the previous item about the BooKids ebook subscription service in France, kids' content is ideal for digital subscription, and the children get to read more often because they don't have that long wait until the next edition comes along.

We'll explore more about digital subscription options in future editions of Publish MENA.
Meanwhile a reminder that in the audiobook sector (with some ebooks also) the model is already working well in some parts of MENA, with Booklava, Kitab Sawti, Dadh and Storytel Arabia among the key players.

Digital books subscription service Storytel launches in Colombia and Brazil

With over 1 million subscribers Storytel proves the demand for digital

Later than anticipated, Storytel finally launches in Brazil in what it its second full country presence in Latin America, but its third operation in the region if you count the partnership with Confama in Colombia. And by extension Storytel’s 18th full country presence, or 19th if Colombia is counted.

It would seem that for now Storytel itself is not counting Colombia as a full launch, and the latest press release cites Brazil as the 18th Storytel country.

The Colombia launch, a partnership with Confama, went live September 1, but there is an official launch party set for September 14.

TNPS has established the Colombia launch, termed the Confama-Storytel alliance, offers 5,000 titles of which 3,000 are in European Spanish and 3,000 in Latin Spanish. That’s out of 110,000 titles in all on the Storytel Colombia site.

A reminder here that Storytel has been in MENA since April 2018.

Storytel Arabia Country Manager Ammar Madawi will be a panellist at the IPA Amman Seminar .

As regards Brazil, this from the press release:

Streamed audio is on the cusp of a listener-revolution in Brazil, whose vast market has been increasingly interested in subscription services for film and music. This streaming momentum will help our top-notch Brazilian team, which includes experts within the realms of content and production, as well as paving the way for our broad assortment of attractive and well-known titles in order to give our customers unlimited listening pleasure anywhere and at any time.

Further Reading

We close this newsletter with links to some MENA-related posts there's not been time or space to cover here.

Egypt’s EGBO at the Indonesia International Book Fair.

Not much detail about this, but the Egyptian General Book Organisation (EGBO) was at the Indonesia International Book Fair this past week.

Read more here.

Iraqi translator honoured at Beijing International Book Fair.

Iraq’s Abbas Kdaimy, a translator and editor who has worked at the Xinhua News Agency in China and became deputy editor-in-chief of the Foreign Languages Press Arabic department in Beijing, was among 12 recipients of the Special Book Award of China.

Read more here.

UAE’s history 2,000 years ago is to be portrayed in a novel by Mohammed Al Habsi.

Al Habsi pointed out that he has been working for almost two years to make a new novel about the UAE 2,000 years ago. “In my new novel, I try to tell the many facts and attitudes that go back to that time, and to show how life, housing and living were in that ancient history,” he added.

About how local heritage has influenced his writings, Al Habsi said: “I do admit that I am deeply influenced by heritage. Maybe this is derived from the nature of my life and my lifelong accompaniment of the elderly for almost 37 years.”

Read more here.

Thousands of Qurans Gifted at Indonesia Int’l Book Fair.

Saudi Arabia handed out 10,000 copies of the Quran at the Jakarta fair.

Read more here,

That’s it for issue #4 of Publish MENA - the digital advantage.

The next issue of Publish MENA will be hitting in-boxes Thursday, September 26, and thereafter every other Thursday, alternating with sister newsletter Publish Africa.

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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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