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Second Edition of Abu Dhabi Publishing Forum Attracts Participants from 27 Countries

Today saw the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Publishing Forum (ADPF) get underway, which will be taking place between 28th – 30th January, having been organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi). This year’s Forum is being held under the theme “The Future of Digital Publishing: Technologies and Challenges – the Global Experience”.


The Forum opened today in the presence of HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism—Abu Dhabi; HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of DCT- Abu Dhabi, with participants hailing from over 27 countries, as well as a number of international and regional organisations and key players in the industry participating. In its entirety, the forum’s main sessions will see 55 speakers, and several workshops take place.

The first day included the opening of a technical exhibition held on the sidelines of the Forum, where major international and regional companies from the digital and audio books industry are showcasing the latest advancements in digital publishing.

In his opening speech, HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of DCT – Abu Dhabi, said: “We gather here today for the second edition of the ADPF under the theme ‘The Future of Digital Publishing: Technologies and Challenges – the Global Experience’ to discuss the means to promote and maintain growth achieved through our knowledge economy, based on the smart use of available technological advancements. DCT – Abu Dhabi is working to launch promising e-publishing programs locally, to celebrate the works of notable writers and intellectuals, and nurture young Emirati talent.”

H.E. stressed how the Forum will host 55 speakers, including highly recognised writers, and publishers from 28 countries, to discuss the means to progress such an important industry. Speakers will also talk about ‘knowledge and culture economies’ and highlight the national identity and unique cultural heritage of each country, throughout the ages.

The Undersecretary of DCT – Abu Dhabi then added: “The electronic and digital publishing industry in the UAE has grown exponentially, to match the progress we have achieved in other fields; especially in the light of the UAE’s National Reading Strategy and the many related initiatives, aiming to broaden the cultural horizons of youth, and create a society of well-read, educated, open-minded, and tolerant individuals. These facts can be simply proven by the readers of digitally published content compared to printed content.”

HE Saif Saeed Ghobash continued: “DCT – Abu Dhabi has achieved several milestones in this field, by utilising state-of-the-art technology and launching several dedicated initiatives. “Today we witness the launch of a ‘Digital Transformation’ programme by DCT – Abu Dhabi, based on four key pillars including electronic and audio books.”

The Forum’s participating panels will discuss the latest topics and challenges facing the e-publishing industry, in order to discover potential opportunities, as media continues to transcend geographical and language barriers, as the most common media accepted among tech-savvy younger generations, allowing them fast reading, discovery, learning, and self-development capabilities.


Day One Sessions

The Forum’s first day opened with a “Reading History” session, moderated by Auhod Al Kholani, from Al Khaleejiah radio. Moritz Van Deen Bogert, Chair of Islamic World and Middle Eastern Studies at ‘Royal Braille’ Publishing (the Netherlands), spoke about the history of reading since the invention of Cuneiform 3,200 B.C. He presented several statistics about the prevalence of illiteracy in certain times and between certain age groups. He also touched on a number of prominent projects and challenges in the electronic and audio books industry.

The ‘Digital Publishing Industry in the Arab World’ session was moderated by Eman Hylooz, Founder and CEO of Abjjad, the e-book platform from Jordan. The session witnessed the participation of Aru Juu, Director of the Seoul International Book Fair (South Korea); Mary Bergeron, Senior Director of International Licensing, EBSCO Information Services (USA); Sayed Dijrevi, Arabic Content Manager, Amazon, Kindle; Writer Mohammed Alghadban (KSA); Dr. Sherif Shaheen, Professor of Libraries and Information Science at Cairo University (Egypt); and Shadi Al Hassan, Founder of Rufoof E-Publishing (Jordan). The panel compared the e-book industry regionally and internationally, looking at ways to boost the industry in the Arab World, and to increase the penetration rates of e-book reading devices and their role in the region.

The third session focused on “Arabic Audio Books”, and was attended by experts including, Helena Gustavson, Global Publishing Director, ‘Storytelling’ (Sweden); Ala’a Mohammed Sulieman, Founder of ‘Masmoo3’ audio book company (Jordan); Tariq Al Bolbol, CEO and Co-Founder of “BookLuva” (Canada); Rawan Barakat, Director, Raneen (Jordan); and Hala Sulieman, Founding Partner, Alrawi application (Bahrain). The session was moderated by media personality Mohra Al Yaqoubi, from Sky News Arabia. The session discussed the beginnings, challenges, and development of Arabic audio books, and the means to spread audio books among youth.

The “Role of International non-Profit Organisations in Supporting the Electronic and Audio Books industry” which discussed ways in which digital and audio publishing can be promoted, highlighting relevant ongoing and future initiatives. It will also explore digital publishing at the Arab Cultural Summit 2019, and international organisations’ support for local and individual contributors to the field, as well as the impact of the industry on cross-cultural dialogue and topics of immigration and inclusion. The session was moderated by Octavio Koliz, UNESCO expert on Digital and Audio Publishing (Argentina); H.E. Dr. Saud Hilal Al Harbi, Assistant Undersecretary at Kuwait’s Ministry of Education, Director-General of ALECSO (Kuwait); Jaume Vicens, Vice Chair of Education Publishers Forum, International Publishers Association (Switzerland); Marwa Obaid Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY (UAE); Carol Seal, writer and editor at University of Chicago Press (USA); and Hamad Al Azari, Head of E-Resources – Sultan Qaboos University (Oman).

The last session of the day discussed the support of the digital and audio books industry, and highlighted the initiatives being currently undertaken. The “Digital and Audio Book Development, Government Support, and Individual Initiatives” session was moderated by Dr. Rashad Kamal, UN Consultant (Canada). The session welcomed speeches by His Excellency Dr. Rashid Al Nuaimi, Executive Director of Media Affairs at the National Media Council (UAE); Isobel Abulhoul, Founder of the Emirates Literature Festival, Trustee of Man Booker Prize (Britain); Abdullah Majid Al Ali, Acting Executive Director, National Library Sector at DCT – Abu Dhabi (UAE); Valentina Qasisieh, CEO of Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation (Jordan); and Dr. Mosaed bin Saleh Al Tayyar, Director General of “Al Mandhouma” Publishing Technologies (KSA). The panel discussed various topics including individual efforts, supportive governmental initiatives, and importance of partnership in the next phase.


The first day of the Forum included workshops including ‘Publishing on Amazon: Mechanisms and Prospects’; ‘How to Create an Audio Book’; ‘How to Protect Your E-Book Against Piracy’; While the fourth workshop ‘The Future of Publishing: Reading in 2050’ discussed rapid technological developments and their impacts on publishing, while underlining self-publishing, its development and the introduction of artificial intelligence within the industry. The ‘Interactive Applications and Children Books’ workshop shed light on the design and development of applications that engage children and capture their interest.

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