Distribution Challenges in the Arab World

Distribution Challenges in the Arab World

By Ali Al-Sha’ali

Emirati Publishers Union Vice-President

Al-Hudhud House for Publishing and Distribution

 

            I dream that books may someday transform into immigrating birds and fly to Arab readers everywhere. We all dream of that day.

            In spite of all the efforts and initiatives of major institutions and governmental administrations to increase accessibility to books, Arab books are still held captive by the shelves at the warehouses of publishers or distributors. Eastern Arabic books long to visit the Arab West, while western Arabic studies and creations aim to flourish in the East. Readers all around the Arab world wait for the yearly book fairs in their countries to buy Arabic books published in other countries if such books manage to bypass censorship and logistic obstacles. Moreover, volatile circumstances in some Arab states complicate book distribution and accessibility.

            Much discourse has been said about the challenges of book distribution around Arab countries. Therefore, I shall only suggest a number of ideas which can turn into actual realistic steps forward:

  • Advancing and enriching Arabic digital content, which will make knowledge accessible everywhere and to all segments of society.
  • Well-funded organizations may Finance digitalizing books to enable downloading and saving them on tablets in collaboration with original publishers.
  • Supporting online bookshops in order to follow Amazon’s example to make books popular commodities
  • Increasing audio books production to modernize reading so that it can fit in everyday busy schedules
  • Finally, the creation of bookstore franchises is very important. It is even better to turn existing franchises into public shareholder companies with branches all over the Arab world.

            Pessimists and negativists may overwhelm the discussions, yet we can still see the sunlight at the end of the tunnel. We do realize that in spite of all the difficulties, bottlenecks, and obstructions in the book industry, it is certainly better now than it was decades ago. All those reading this article might admit that their children read today more than they do. In fact, Arabic books have advanced in form and content. Production is increasing to achieve relative supply-demand equilibrium.

            In conclusion, I would like to congratulate fellow Arab citizens and myself for launching the “Arab Reading Challenge” project, which might open a new window for light and refreshing air.

By Ali Al-Sha’ali

Al-Hudhud House for Publishing and Distribution