Abu Dhabi holds virtual workshop titled ‘The Status of Arab Publishing and its Future’

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) organised a virtual digital workshop titled ‘The Status of Arab Publishing and its Future’ this week, which discussed Arabic publishing houses, the challenges facing the industry, the future of the sector and different strategies given the exceptional current global circumstances.

The workshop, which took place via a video conference platform, was attended by HE Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chaitman of the Abu Dhabi Centre for the Arabic Language, HE Abdullah Majed Al Ali, Executive Director of the Dar Al Kutub Sector at DCT Abu Dhabi, Mohamed Ahmad Rashad, President of the Arab Publishers’ Association, Bashar Shabaru, Secretary General of the Arab Publishers’ Association, and Rashid Al Kous, Executive Director of the Emirates Publishers Association, with a number of Emirati and Arab publishers.

The workshop was opened by His Excellency Dr Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Centre for the Arabic Language.

HE Dr bin Tamim said: “Our meeting takes place during the exceptional circumstances the world is going through, and we are here to discuss the current challenges faced by the publication sector during this pandemic and the industry’s future prospects, in the presence of representatives of the Union of Arab Publishers, the Association of Emirati Publishers, and a number of Emirati and Arab publishers. We will cooperate together to create ideas and visions that will find solutions to these challenges, utilising modern technological tools for research and analysis to create paths that will help Arab publishers out of this crisis and create new opportunities for the publishing industry.

HE Al Ali then provided an overview of the range of cultural projects which have been adopted by DCT Abu Dhabi following the precautionary measures and guidelines issued by the UAE government to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He encouraged the audience to use the time in quarantine to read, and highlighted the digital, electronic, and audio initiatives available.

HE Al Ali also showcased future projects of DCT Abu Dhabi which seek to champion industry best practice in the publishing sector through the use of digital platforms and audio books, alongside encouraging Arab publishers to explore these avenues.

He also stressed that DCT Abu Dhabi, and its diverse range of initiatives, will emerge from the current global crisis in a strong position. During the outbreak, the Department is developing its digital infrastructure and diversifying its use of existing technologies.

The session included a speech by Mohamed Rashad, President of the Arab Publishers’ Association, in which he thanked DCT Abu Dhabi for holding this virtual seminar to contribute to developing an industry profession that deserves attention. He touched on the reality of the publishing industry prior to the global health crisis, and how the situation is affecting it now, as well as discussing the future prospects required to advance the sector.

Pointing out that the number of libraries, the number of publications, and the number of publishing houses in the Arab world are not commensurate with the population, Rashad noted that it is necessary to take this time to study the needs of the market in terms of “quantity” and “quality”. He concluded by observing the importance of training workers in the industry in the protection of intellectual property and other skills, necessary for the advancement of the publishing sector.

Rashid Al Kous, Executive Director of the Emirates Publishers Association, also spoke, stressing that the publishing sector has been just as affected by the global health crisis as other hard hit industries. He noted that the session was an ideal platform to discuss novel initiatives for the advancement of the publishing industry, in addition to offering a way to brainstorm ways to support workers in the sector, keeping their health and safety in mind as well as their livelihoods, given that the printing and publishing sector has been shut down.

Head of Dar Kuttab, Jamal Al Shehhi, pointed out that while the current circumstances are causing great difficulties, the publishing industry’s troubles did not start with the global pandemic; rather, it is well known that it has already been in crisis for several years. He noted that while cultural institutions in various parts of the Arab world have tried to find solutions to challenges in the sector, industry professionals in the UAE are fortunate in terms of the initiatives launched by our government to advance the publishing sector alongside cultural institutions and bodies.

The attendees also discussed the challenges facing the global publishing industry, focussing in particular on the Arab world. In addition, the workshop offered a comprehensive range of ideas and initiatives to help ease the burden on Arab publishers, through suggestions that bring Arab authors and their readerships closer together, alongside sourcing digital publishing alternatives for Arabic literature.

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