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The three-day 11th Publishers Conference, which opened Sunday, 31 October in the lead up to the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), has hosted several lively panel sessions featuring experts in the Arab and Spanish book markets, who have highlighted the diversity of their literary product, market trends and shared other valuable insights.

The diversity of the Arab publishing markets was highlighted in a discussion titled ‘Arab Publishing Landscape: Guidelines to the Different Arabic World Markets’. Moderated by Trevor Naylor, Associate Director of Sales and Marketing, AUC Press, Egypt, the session explored the unique strengths of each market in the region as they work in entirely different contexts with respect to culture, content, translation, production, bookselling and consumption.

Speaking at the session, Maher Kayali, Director General, Arab Foundation for Studies and Publishing, Lebanon, said that participation in international fairs like SIBF, has offered a greater understanding of publishing and translation rights. “Cultural barriers often impact the selection of titles but events like these strengthen cooperation and bolster experience, which is vital to overcoming the ongoing challenges in the industry”, he noted.

Moenis Hattab, CEO, ABC Publishing, Jordan, said: “The Arab culture and market are diverse, and we do need more books, but translated works must observe the traditions and values of the Arab world.” He added that all channels of communication between publishing partners must remain open throughout the year, and not be restricted to only fairs and conferences.

Mohamed Al Jabrri, CEO, Arab Nile Group, Egypt, who caters to academic publishing noted: “The need of the hour is a multi-entity framework supported by the government and private sectors to generate investments in this sector. My success as a publisher is closely linked to the initiatives that have originated in Sharjah and the UAE, especially the SIBF Translation Grant.”

Tamer Saeed, Managing Director, Kalimat Group, UAE, said: “Publishers are ready to experiment if they find appropriate partners. We need more investment to support such relationships, so we don’t have to restrict ourselves to one type of literature or follow the books that sell in the western world.”

Lessons from Spain

To mark Spain’s participation as Guest of Honour at the milestone edition of SIBF this year, the final panel discussion on the first day of the conference heard from Spanish publishing experts about trends in the Spanish book market, and their ongoing efforts to engage with readers everywhere.

The discussion titled, ‘Guest of Honour Spain Spotlight: Lessons and Learning from the Growing Spanish Book Market’, was moderated by Antonio María Ávila, Director, Federation of Publishers Guilds of Spain, who revealed that the publishing sector represents 3.2 percent of Spain’s GDP and generates 11,000 direct jobs along with more than 100,000 indirect jobs.

Book publishing is the leading cultural industry in Spain, asserted Luis Zendrera, CEO, Editorial Juventud (Spain), as he called on Arab and Spanish publishers to collaborate closely and provide quality content for readers in the region. “Translation inevitably involves two different languages and traditions, and especially in the context of children’s books, we must respect the customs and cultures of the region when undertaking such projects.”

The Spanish book publishing industry is just on its way to recovery, he noted, expressing hope that SIBF will strengthen ties with Arab publishers and pave the way for greater collaboration.

Francisco Javier Sanz, Director, Editorial Planeta, said the Spanish book industry has been spreading its culture in four languages around the world. “The inherent strengths of narration and content in the Spanish world could be shared with writers and publishers in the Arabic region by facilitating intercultural exchanges with authors”, he added.