The Sheikh Zayed Book Award participated in the first ever International Publishers Association (IPA) seminar to take place in the Middle East, held in the Jordanian capital of Amman on 30 September and 1 October under the theme “Read. Empower. Transform: The Role of Reading for the Future of the Arab World”.
Held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, the seminar, organised by the IPA in cooperation with the Union of Jordanian Publishers, looked to discuss the publishing industry from both a regional and global standpoint. The conference was attended by HE Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Authority and Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, and Abdullah Majid Al Ali, Acting Executive Director of Dar Al Kutub at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.
The seminar convened a remarkable group of global industry leaders, decision makers, intellectuals, top publishers and authors working in publishing and education. The event aimed to find solutions to the most pressing challenges in the regional industry, and featured a wide range of activities and workshops, in addition to 12 inspiring and informative panel sessions.
Topics discussed included publishing industry issues and possible solutions, the digital age and its importance for the region's future, the influence of cultural projects in motivating publishers and writers and also the subject of digital disruption and how best to leverage it. Also covered by the seminar was the role of the publishing industry in humanitarian responses, particularly the repatriation of refugees.
His Excellency Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary General of Sheikh Zayed Book Award, participated in a panel on the second day, titled ‘Bringing the Voice of Arab Writers, Publishers and Content Creators to the World’. The panel, moderated by Wael Attili, co-founder of Kharabeesh Innovation, and also featuring Dia Haykal, Head of Content at Haykal Media and journalist Dr. Inaam Kachachi of Asharq Al Awsat, focused on how Arab writers and publishers can benefit from an increasing global demand for content.
HE Dr. Ali Bin Tamim said: "The publishing industry is complex and interlocking; parties overlap and are deeply involved with and dependent on each other. The cultural is intertwined with the economic, and the social with the political. Publishing requires a great deal of input and effort from various factors - human skill, technology, processes - and must nurture and build its consumer base, namely readers, over years and years. To continue to flourish, there is a need for national policies that embrace and support this industry.
"The issues facing this sector in the Arab world are not ones that can be reduced to simple explanations, such as high prices of books, or the reluctance of Arabs to read, and other reasons that we have heard repeatedly. The crisis is more complex and deep than these surface issues, and if we want to understand its dimensions, analyse its elements and determine its causes, we must undertake proper research."
Bin Tamim noted that today’s Arabic literature is the result of an amalgamation, over hundreds of years, of styles and contributions from authors around the world. It has reached its current prestigious status in the literary world through inspiring rewards and endowments, translation projects, and participation at international conferences, and also thanks to the continuous publication of Arabic books by the finest universities and publishing houses, and the teaching of Arabic culture in international universities. He concluded that this is exactly what the UAE’s publishing industry is striving to achieve - the consolidation of efforts, from different areas, to drive both the sector and Arabic literature itself to even greater heights.
The IPA is one of the most prestigious international vocational organisations in the world, encompassing national and regional publishing unions. Established in 1896 in Paris and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, its membership spans more than 70 publishers’ organisations and associations from around 65 countries. The Union of Jordanian Publishers was established in 1996, as a cultural, non-profit organisation to regulate the publishing and distribution sector in Jordan and develop sponsorship for these activities.