Titled “Building a Digital Ecosystem for Knowledge”, the seminar was moderated by Saeed Hamdan Al Tunaiji, Director of Publishing at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), with the pcomprising Abdulla Majid al Ali, Executive Director of the Dar Al Kutub Sector at DCT Abu Dhabi, Rashid Al Kous, Executive Director of the Emirates Publishers Association, Dr. Abdulsalam Haykal, Executive Chairman and Founder of Haykal Media, and Salah Chebaro, Chief Executive Officer of ‘Neel wa Furat.com’.

Majid al Ali cited a number of successful DCT Abu Dhabi initiatives:

We’ve had new and unique experiences that yielded great results, such as turning Louvre Abu Dhabi into a virtual museum, for example, and the large number of virtual concerts and activities we have broadcast to a wide audience through DCT Abu Dhabi’s digital channels.

Those included the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards themselves this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The online event garnered over two million engagements.

Rashid Al Kous talked of how the UAE’s Emirates Publishing Association had gone from 15 members when founded in 2009 by Bodour Al Qasimi, to 175 members today, and of the emergency fund for Emirati publishers to help them through the pandemic era. See Publish MENA # 9 for the initial announcement. Per an item to come in Publish MENA 10, applications are now open.

Salah Chebaro of ‘Neel wa Furat.com’ said:

Digital publications currently represent 10% or 15% of total published works in Arabic, which can be attributed to both financial and technical factors.”

The press release adds:

(Salah Chebaro) pointed out initiatives aiming to bolster Arab digital publishing, most particularly that of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which works closely with Arab publishers and authors in order to build a feasible model for digital publishing.

Abdulsalam Haykal, arguing that the Arab publishing sector is neither mature nor stable enough to sustain itself, stressed that,

thepublishing is an industry just like any other, and it requires a set of factors in order to succeed, such as planning, investment and legislation.

The issue of piracy came up with, Al Kous talking about the efforts and coordination between Emirati authorities aiming to address the problem, while Chebaro argued the case for a subscription service (already happening with audiobooks).

Haykal concurred, talking about the,

never-before-seen emergence of the ‘subscription culture’ in the Arab world, by which people are happy to pay for content through video and music streaming platforms,

and the need to construct a model for books that met the needs of both investors and creators.

Read more here.