Like many other trades that have been gravely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Arab publishing industry faces serious questions on post-pandemic recovery, the birth of pandemic-inspired visions, and dealing with new demand.
Apart from new interests shaping readership trends in a post-Covid-19 world, the Arab publishing industry finds its policies challenged by developments brought about by the pandemic. Will the industry stick to publishing lists it had already prepared before the pandemic or will it revise all the material?
Abdulqadir Arabi, head of the Marrakesh-based Afaq Library for Studies, Publishing and Communication, said that Morocco’s national publishing industry will not recover before the end of 2021.
“Nothing is new in the publishing sector,” Arabi added, explaining that publishing houses have been struggling to push out accumulated material.
As for the pandemic triggering change in readership bases, Arabi said that there are no indicators showing transformation in the Moroccan reader’s interest.
Khaled Bin Abdulaziz al-Ateeq, the CEO of the “Mdarek” publishing and distribution company and member of the cultural and entertainment committee at the Riyadh Chambers, said that the Saudi publishing sector, for the time being and the near future, is trying hard to cut losses and avert damage.
Mdarek is seeking innovation in marketing and finding new ways to reach readers, al-Ateeq noted.
He revealed that the company is engaged in e-commerce and has been marketing its publications online.
Online sales for Mdarek have improved slightly during the last period, al-Ateeq confirmed, but went on to explain that it only covers 10% of what the company makes in a single international book fair.
Fahed al-Ouda, who is a representative of the Saudi-Kuwaiti “Kalemat” publishing house, emphasized that there has been a shift in direction caused by low sales in print books.
“We have boosted e-services and launched multiple awareness campaigns that promote reading,” al-Ouda said, adding that Kalemat also increased its social media presence.
Musfer al-Subaiye, general director of Saudi Arabia’s Arab Literature Center, also known as “Adab Book,” drew attention to increased demand for e-books which have taken the market by storm as a better and more cost-effective option compared to hard copies.