DUBAI: As technology advances, bookworms are finding more options for consuming literature than just the printed word. There are far fewer Arabic e-books than English e-books, but publishers and translators are working to fill the gap.
In 2018, Amazon announced Arabic language support for the Kindle e-reader, opening the door of literature to more readers.
From novels to self-help books, biographies to poetry, more and more Arabs are finding affordable ways to gain knowledge in e-books and audiobooks. Yet reading printed books is still the most preferred option for the majority.
“Honestly, I don’t think there is as much problem with reading books in the Arab region as there is with selling books,” said Salah Chebaro, CEO of Beirut-based Neelwafurat. told Arab News.
One of the largest online bookstores in the Arab world, Neelwafurat is a combination of two Arabic names for the Nile and Euphrates rivers.
This bookstore sells books printed in different cities around the world from Arab publishers. We have an inventory of 15,000 e-books and 800,000 print books available through the iKitab app.
“If you look at the number of pirated books that have been downloaded, it’s in the millions,” Chevalo said in an online interview from the Lebanese capital. “People like reading books, but they don’t like paying to read.”
However, “the pain points for publishers, distributors and bookstores in the Arab world are shipments (books) and other logistics related to the region’s geography.”
For example, shipping a total of two kilograms of printed books from New York to Los Angeles, USA, costs about the same as shipping from Cairo to Amman.
Chebaro said this is due to the geographical distribution of the Arab region, which makes shipping, transportation, imports and exports more complicated and costly.
Savings on shipping costs is one of the main factors behind the growing popularity of e-books in the Arab region. Other factors include the reduced space required to store and carry printed books, and the speed with which books can be purchased online, allowing you to finish your book in the blink of an eye.
Some people prefer print, but reading on gadgets has many advantages. Dhuha Awad, a Yemeni-British and Dubai-based creative facilitator, says he likes the dictionary feature in digital English books.
“You can type the word you are looking for and the gadget will show you all the lines containing that word (in the digital book), and you don’t have to carry the book you are reading all the time,” Awad told Arab News. .
Her library consists of roughly equal numbers of digital and print books, and uses e-book formats to further save time and physical space. “If I like a book and want others to read it, I definitely do it on paper. But if I’m not sure, I buy the digital format first,” she said.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are leading the growth of the e-book market in the Arab region, said Ali Abdel Moneim Ahmed, Digital Publishing Consultant for the UK, Egypt and the UAE at Liberty Education. increase. The Sharjah Publishers Conference, on the sidelines of the 2022 edition of the UAE’s Sharjah International Book Fair, held annually in November.
According to Ahmed, more and more publishers offer online platforms to offer digital versions of their books. Publishers are also working with audio-enabled platforms such as Storytel and Audible.
Sales of classic e-books in the markets of the aforementioned three Arab countries “increased by 14% (2021),” Ahmed said. “This is apart from online publications, which increased by 50%.”
E-book sales are growing, but there is still room for growth. According to publishers, e-book sales account for about 10% of total book sales.
“It’s a promising[area]…and it’s increasing every year. But it still falls short of Europe and the US, where nearly 30% of book sales are e-books,” Chebaro told Arab News. Told.
Global e-book sales are huge, although figures vary by source and website.
According to WordsRated, a US-based non-profit research organization, global e-book revenue will exceed $16.1 billion in 2021 and is expected to exceed $18.7 billion by 2026.
Another US-based market and consumer data provider, Statista, expects the e-book segment to reach $13.6 billion in 2022, with an annual growth rate of 3.38%, reaching more than $16 billion by 2027 doing.
The number of e-readers is expected to exceed 1.1 billion by 2027, with most of the revenue expected to be generated in the United States. The country is the world’s largest book market, with revenues estimated at billions of dollars.
Nearly one million books are published annually in the United States, in addition to four million self-published books annually.
By comparison, revenues for the Arab book market range from $100 million to $150 million. Only one million books have been published in the Arab region in the last 50 years, according to data Cevalo shared with Arab News.
Publishing figures in the Arab world are related to many socioeconomic factors, primarily personal income.
“Today, the (percentage) of pirated books in the Gulf region is lower than in other countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. ,” Chebaro told Arab News.
“There is still a long way to go…[but]overall, print book sales are growing as are e-book sales. There are, and each has its customers and readers.”
Saudi Arabia tops the list of buyers and readers for both e-books and print books in the Arab world. Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Algeria will follow, Cevalo said.
Fiction, self-esteem and mental health, and biography top the list of subjects of interest to Arab readers, Doha Al-Refai, publishing manager at the Rufof digital bookstore, told Arab News from Amman, Jordan. Told.
Offering 25,000 Arabic titles for a monthly subscription fee, the store acts like an online library of sorts. Instead of selling digital or print versions of her books, she allows readers to read them on her website.
“We do not distribute or sell books for readers. We distribute for publishers,” Al-Refai told Arab News.
Rufoof “solved the broad readership problem of allowing people to read as much as they wanted throughout the month without having to buy a book, whether paper or digital.”
Saudis, Emirates and Egyptians are LeFouf’s top customers. Egyptians are one of his most avid readers, but he also has a large Gulf subscriber base, Al-Refai said, adding that the website has plans to expand to audiobooks.
According to many publishers, audiobooks are a promising field with great potential. Chebaro and Al-Refai said the Arab region has produced about 8,000 audiobooks in his 2021, with Al-Refai adding that Rufoof accounts for his 5,000 so far.
Egyptian author Amer Hussein says that the digital format has made literature accessible to those forced to inflate the price of books.
“Arabs in various places such as Australia, Europe and other cities far from the Arab region find it difficult to obtain books in Arabic,” said Hussein, who lives in Dubai, Arab News told to
“By distributing books in digital format, people around the world have the opportunity to read books published in the Arab region.”
He said he personally prefers audiobooks because he can listen to them while stuck in traffic or on an airplane.
Many readers and writers would agree with Purva Grover, a Dubai-based writer from India who has authored three e-books. The future is bright with e-books and print.
“Nowadays, reading is about sharing. When I read a good paragraph, I want to immediately take a screenshot and send it to my friends, post it on my social accounts, tag my friends, etc. Electronic Books help us do all that.Encourage and spread the word of reading in this tech-friendly age.”