'Foundation of truth': Sharjah Book Authority chairperson speaks on role of publishers during conference

The opening day of the conference featured inspiring keynotes delivered by industry leaders from the Arab region and the world


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Published: Sun 29 Oct 2023, 4:02 PM

In her impactful words, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), underscored that publishing stands at the gates of history, and has to reclaim the vital role it has played for centuries. “In our pursuit of progress, it is essential that we remain committed to our core belief in the power of the written word, and the role it plays in bringing us together, or dividing us. To continue delivering on our promise, the publishing industry has to adapt to the rapid changes of our time. We are at a unique intersection of tradition and innovation, and must navigate this exciting landscape of constant disruption,” she remarked.

“At a time when misinformation, disinformation, fake news, cancel culture, and algorithms dominate public discourse and create fake bubbles, publishers have a unique opportunity and responsibility to restore faith in humanity and present verified, well-researched content to shape a future where truth triumphs over falsehood,” Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi stated.

This was delivered during her opening keynote speech inaugurating the first day of the 13th Sharjah Publishers Conference, which convened in the presence of Ahmed Bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of SBA, and publishing experts from 106 countries, to explore the advancement of the publishing sector and the future of the book industry. The conference is offering participating professionals and industry leaders a platform to discuss key challenges that face publishers at the global level, and create practical solutions to turn these challenges into growth opportunities.

Continuing her speech the SBA Chairperson said, “In an age where opinions are formed and shared at lightning speed, it is critical that publishers continue to provide a solid foundation of truth upon which individuals can build their understanding of complex issues. This is a sacred mission of publishers, upon which we built our credibility with our readers and communities, and we must protect it at all costs, no matter what the trends or circumstances are.”

The opening day of the conference featured inspiring keynotes delivered by industry leaders from the Arab region and the world, including Yoon Chul Ho, President of the Korean Publishers Association; Núria Cabutí Brull, CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial; Ian Chapman, CEO & Publisher of Simon & Schuster UK & International; and Jo Henry, Managing Director of BookBrunch.

Exploring the publishing sector

As South Korea is the Guest of Honour at SIBF this year, Yoon Chul Ho, President of the Korean Publishers Association provided valuable insights from the Korean publishing landscape, saying, “It is a great honour for Korea to be present at this conference, where we can discuss opportunities, best practices, and initiatives in Korea with attendees from all around the world. The Korean market remains resilient to recent global challenges through sustainability and our advanced technologies, creating a significant positive impact in our industry. We have seen this through the extensive increase of digital books, as well as the application of artificial intelligence. We remain dedicated to bridging the gaps between publishers and the publishing sector, preserving information, and innovating new systems to advance the industry further.”

Núria Cabutí Brull, CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, engaged in a conversation with Porter Anderson, Editor in Chief of Publishing Perspectives, and discussed the most significant challenges facing the global publishing market, particularly those related to technology and artificial intelligence. Brull stated, “It is quite obvious that artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on the publishing market. However, it is still too early to fully understand the nature of this impact. What is crucial in this context is that this technology will offer many opportunities on various fronts, especially with translation, creativity, as well as editing, and will play an important role in empowering and enhancing the publishing process. That said, human creativity is still the most important thing, and won’t be replaced by machines.” Brull pointed out that Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, operates in nine spanish speaking nations worldwide, selling millions of books annually.

She also addressed the challenges facing the publishing market in Spain and highlighted the importance of promoting reading and books among children and adolescents, emphasising their commitment to providing inspirational and engaging content for these groups.

Invaluable networking and opportunities

At the heart of the conference was a diverse array of roundtable sessions, each encompassing distinct themes and topics, providing a platform for the acquisition of publishing rights, knowledge exchange and networking. The discussions delved into the unique dynamics of various regions, including in-depth explorations of the South Korean book market and other Asian nations, the Americas, as well as Indian and African book scenes. Attendees received strategies for engaging with the Arab World and also featured engaging dialogues delving into innovations within the publishing realm, including cutting-edge topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and the Print on Demand model.

Additionally, these discussions explored the expansion of publishing genres and formats, including the emerging market of graphic novels and audiobooks for children. Furthermore, the roundtable sessions encompassed a wide spectrum of subjects, including the art of pitching both adult and children's books for translation, navigating the intricacies of book-to-screen adaptations, the nuances of contract negotiations, and the evolving landscape of digital business models. Expert knowledge and opinions were also exchanged on topics of global significance, including standardisation in the industry, enhancing access to international marketplaces, fostering cross-country collaboration in publishing, formulating effective social media strategies, as well as the emerging role of Artificial Intelligence in the publishing sector.


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