UAE: ‘Demand for e-books has tripled even as piracy concerns remain high in Arab markets’ – News

Technical understanding of digital footprinting, monthly subscription models, and online document serialization will help curb the unlicensed distribution of eBooks

12th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Publishers Conference. Photo: Supplied

By web office

Published: Sun 30 Oct 2022, 06:14 PM

Arabic publishers attending the 12th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Publishers Conference detailed how they are finding innovative technological solutions to showcase high-value Arabic content to meet changing reader demands even as the demand for printed matter continues to increase in Arab markets.

On the opening day of the 12th SIBF Publishers Conference at Expo Center Sharjah, panelists from the session “Digital Publishing in the Arab World: How Arab Publishers Are Embracing the Digital Landscape and Who are the main operators? said demand for e-books in the Arab world has tripled during the pandemic while the print sector continues to experience healthy growth.

The e-book market and audio publishing are expected to grow

The younger generation is discovering the beauty of printed books through digital media, said Eman Hylooz, CEO and co-founder of Abjad Website – Jordan, who moderated the session.

Ali Abdelmoneim Mohamed Ahmed, Digital Publishing Consultant at Liberty Education UK, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, said, “More and more publishers are offering online platforms with their books having digital versions. Partnering with audio-ready platforms like Storytel and Audible also helps publishers find new audiences.

He added, “E-book sales of classic books grew by 14% last year in the markets of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That apart from online posts which increased by 50%.

Although the global Arab population is much larger than the US population, fewer titles are published in the Arabic language, said Lebanese publisher Salah Chebaro, founder and CEO of web platform Neelwafurat.

“We publish less than a million book titles a year for 450 million people. We produced 8,000 audiobooks last year while the US markets had 75,000 audio titles. Despite great interest from readers, only 10% of Arabic books are currently digitized. The e-book market is experiencing an ever-increasing demand and we need to tap into its potential,” he added.

Digital piracy remains a major concern in the Arab world, said Jordanian Doha Alrefae who runs rufoof. She said: “Most publishers shy away from e-books because they fear duplication of content. Although this is a global issue, regulations are not yet in place in Arabic online publishing.

“Technical understanding of digital footprinting, monthly subscription models and serialization of online documents will help curb the unlicensed distribution of e-books,” Doha added.

Khaled Ababneh, business development manager at Almotahida Education Group, offered solutions such as the use of watermarking to combat data piracy. “Published digital content should only be decrypted with subscriptions. Using visual or non-visual watermarks, limiting the number of users or devices, and using content management systems will help regulate consumers,” he said.

The rise of audiobooks

Audiobooks are not a profitable market, but they are destined for exponential growth, said Govind Deecee of DC Books, India, during the panel discussion entitled “Emerging Audiobook Markets”, moderated by Nathan Hull, Chief Strategy Officer , Beat Technology, Norway.

“Publishers are conservative when it comes to creating audiobooks. Although we are dealing with a fairly small market that caters primarily to a regional Indian language, we have realized that it is essential to maintain the quality of production in order to arouse the interest of young people in the population,” he said.

Ama Dadson, Founder and CEO of Akoo Books, Ghana, said the sub-Saharan audiobook market is heavily driven by mobile technology users and is growing rapidly.

“Our storytelling is performative and we have theater artists who have become vocal artists. Authenticity is paramount when it comes to local digital publishing. Interactivity in storytelling, especially with AI (artificial intelligence), is what I look forward to in the near future,” she said.


The audience for immersive narrative text is set to grow, said Beatrice Lin, editor-in-chief of Co.Mint, South Korea. “We now have stages for published authors who can have their works narrated by performance artists. Spatial publishing becomes normal with professional book reading voices exploring new forms of content,” said Lin, who is also a consultant for Storytel in Seoul.

On the first day of the 12th SIBF Publishers Conference, Mariam Al Ali from the Sharjah Book Authority also provided key information on applying for the SIBF Translation Grant, a US$300,000 fund exclusively available for Editors’ Conference attendees.

In line with the day one conference agenda, participating publishers, rights professionals and translators engaged in networking sessions with their counterparts in the region and around the world.

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