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During an evening featuring the youngest Emirati and Gulf publisher
NASHER, the first professional website for publishers in the Arab world, held a panel discussion on Tuesday evening under the theme “UAE Youth and Investment in the Publishing Sector”. Held at Al-Rawi Cafe in Al-Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah, the panel was moderated by Mohammed Al-Attar, General Coordinator of NASHER. The key speakers included Salem Omar, Director of Sharjah Publishing City, Jamal Al-Shehhi, founder of “Kettab” Publishing House, and Ali Al Marzouqi, Founder of “Madar” Publishing and Distribution House.
The session was attended by a number of writers, publishers, media professionals and those interested in cultural work and the publishing industry. It addressed a number of issues related to the motivation of young Emirati people to establish and open publishing houses: Is it the desire to invest and make profit only? Or are there different cultural motives contributing to this movement that started to emerge in the UAE market in recent years?.
Salem Omar stressed that the interest of young Emirati people in the publishing sector is the result of the tireless efforts made by the competent government agencies in this sector, as well as the increasing cultural activity. The Sharjah Cultural Project started 40 years ago and culminated in the nomination of Sharjah as the World Book Capital 2019, thanks to the efforts of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qassimi, Vice President of the International Federation of Publishers. “The facilities provided by government, agencies, especially the Sharjah City Publishing, play a key role in supporting and promoting the creative abilities of the young Emirati people”, he said.
Ali al-Marzouqi, the youngest publisher in the UAE and Gulf region, pointed out that the reason why he founded a publishing house was the lack of large publishing houses to print the works of the young authors under the pretext of the difficulty of marketing their work. “The involvement of the Emirati in this sector is not primarily aimed at profit making, but it is also a cultural, knowledge and intellectual investment”, he said.
Jamal Al-Shehhi said that “some people may not like the term “publishing industry”, considering that publishing and culture is a non-commercial domain, but in fact it is a field that includes the creative, intellectual and financial aspects. And in order to have a modern and distinctive culture, publishing industry must be full-fledged. He indicated that the UAE is a favorable environment for a successful publishing industry in terms of security, stability and development, and the remarkable cultural advancement. “Sharjah is playing a leading role locally and regionally to produce a “culture like us”. One manifestation of this is the investment of young Emirati people in the publishing sector, though we are still taking our first steps”, he added.
Al-Shehhi encouraged young people to engage courageously in this sector to increase the number of publishing houses to facilitate access to books for all members of society and to benefit from the lucrative opportunities in this sector, especially as the size of the global publishing market has reached more than 100 billion USD during the last three years. He stressed that smart publishers can find a foothold in the UAE publishing sector, which is a new and promising sector, as there are still great opportunities in it, particularly in the publication of specialized books and children’s books, where foreign books dominate 70 percent of the publishing market in the country, compared with 30 percent for Arabic books.
Al-Shehhi touched on the importance of the publishing sector and its impact on other industries. He pointed out that Hollywood, which generates about $ 140 billion a year, benefits from the publishing sector. A prominent example of this, he explained, is the world’s most popular television series, “Game of Thrones”, is based on a book published in the same name in the 1990s, later became the world’s most lucrative and profitable multi-part series.
As for the government facilities offered to publishers, especially young people, to make their investment in this sector feasible, Salem Omar said that “Sharjah Publishing City” provides many facilities to support the UAE and Arab publishers. It aims to establish relations between publishers and gather them in one place, through 650 offices available for rent. It also provides them with customs facilities, book distribution support, fees exemption, media support, as well as legal advice to preserve their rights. With these facilities, the UAE publishing sector is expected to reach more than US $ 650 million by 2030.
In conclusion, Al-Shehhi stressed that the success of young people’s investment in the publishing sector must be backed by several factors, primarily professionalism, and the strategic thinking that enable publishers to take advantage of the technological developments in the industry, such as using the digital printing press to print customized books in limited numbers. Al-Shehhi pointed out that the penetration of international markets, and luck, are among the most important factors for the success of young publishers.