UAE: Piracy, censorship still major challenges for Arab publishers

Distributing books from one country to another also poses a hurdle, say experts


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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File photo for illustrative purposes
File photo for illustrative purposes

Published: Sun 22 May 2022, 4:40 PM

Piracy, distribution and censorship are the major challenges facing the Arab world’s book industry, said an Egyptian publisher.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the 1st International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries 2022 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Sherif Bakr, general manager, Al Arabi Publishing and Distributing, said piracy for physical books and digital piracy is abundant, and both have posed a significant problem.

“Piracy is a key challenge in the Arab market. Physical pirated books are sold at quarter or half the prices of the original cost because they don’t have any running costs. They only incur the printing costs and can make huge profits out of it,” he said.

“The digital piracy is quite easy as anyone can scan our books on mobile phones and upload them online. The pirates are taking advantage of gaps in how copyright laws are implemented.”

Bakr noted that Egyptian publishers were working with the Egyptian judicial authorities to fight piracy by amending the piracy law to make it tougher for the violators.

“We are also trying to educate people to find other resources like using libraries for those who can’t afford buying books other than relying on pirated materials,” he said.

Bakr also cited distribution as another challenge faced by publishers, stressing that it was difficult to distribute books from one country to another.

“Logistics are not easy. Distributing books to various countries is hard due varying prices of books from country to country and the shipping costs are high as well,” said Bakr, adding that this makes purchasing books expensive for many consumers with limited incomes in Arab countries.

The publisher noted that censorship was also a major challenge, as they were facing difficulties distributing books in some countries where there is government censorship of certain creative materials.

In a panel discussion on ‘Arabic Publishing: Where Are We, and Where Are We Heading?’, Shareen Kreidieh, general manager, Asala Publishing House, said Arab publishers were developing as many e-books as possible but piracy remains a big challenge.

“Digitalised Arabic content is still not enough, but publishers were working hard to produce more works to cater for the huge online consumers. Arabic and Islamic physical and e-books are very important to our children,” she said.

“But it was very important to come up with measures for controlling piracy, which is rising in the Arab region. Also, there is need for authors to spread awareness among readers about not buying pirated books.”

Ruediger Wischenbart ,president and founder, Content and Consulting, has advised Arab nations and publishers to work together to create a permanent strategy for promoting their publications and protect the copyright.


“It’s very important that Arabic publishers develop their own models of publishing, distribution and copyright protection,” he said.

Stefanie Lamprinidi, regional content expansion manager, Storytel, said audio books can be a way to introduce reading to reluctant readers and children so they can enjoy stories in a different format.

“In Sweden, 50 per cent of the book market is digital, with many of the books being audio,” she said.

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