Intellectuals shed light on the “publishing industry in Qatar” within the activities of the Amman International Book Fair 2023.
A symposium was held on the “Publishing Industry in Qatar” as part of the cultural program of the State of Qatar, “guest of honor” at the 2023 Amman International Book Fair in its “22nd” edition, which is currently being held in the Jordanian capital “Amman,” and continues until September 30.
Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Rahim Al-Sayed/ Vice President of the Arab Publishers Union and Director of Al Watad Publishing House, Dr. Aisha Al Kuwari/ General Director of the Qatari Forum for Authors and CEO of Rosa Publishing House, and Jabr Abu Fares/ President of the Jordanian Publishers Union, participated in the symposium.
Jordanian novelist Ahmed Al-Tarawneh, who managed the symposium, shed light on the Arab cultural scene and the effective contributions of the State of Qatar in enriching it, explaining that cultural industries in the Arab world today are considered one of the most important main elements of any national economy, and one of these industries is the publishing industry, in reference to Al-Tarawneh to the extent of the interconnection between culture and the economy.
He added that the size of the global publishing market in 2022 reached 138 billion dollar, while the Arab countries’ share of it amounted to only 5 billion dollar, most of which is limited to university and school book publications, which indicates that the publishing industry in the Arab world is going through a dangerous stage, which confirming that Qatar is an integral part of the Arab cultural scene and the publishing sector, which requires studying the reality of publishing in Qatar and revealing its strengths and weaknesses.
As for Dr. Aisha Al-Kuwari, she began her speech at the symposium by saying that there is a close connection between the publishing industry and the economy. The publishing industry is considered a knowledge economy and faces great challenges, indicating that when owners of publishing houses and printing presses enter this sector, they enter from an obsession represented by their social responsibility in addition to the required investment ambition.
She added that the reality of the publishing sector in the State of Qatar is not very different from the Arab countries in terms of problems, challenges and economic crises affecting the sector, such as the rise in paper prices, the decline in book acquisition rates, and the spread of the culture of reading. She believes that the solution to these obstacles lies in the “difficult reconciliation,” as she says, between the dilemmas of the publishing sector and its high costs with the weak ability to acquire books, which requires a major role on the part of the publisher, the reader, and society as a whole.
Dr. Aisha Al Kuwari/ Director General of the Qatari Forum for Authors and CEO of Rosa Publishing House, stated that the number of publishing houses in the State of Qatar is very small when compared to the great vision and ambition of the state. The publishing sector in Qatar began recently in 2017 as private publishing houses, and before that date the publishing sector in the country was a governmental institutional sector such as distribution institutions and libraries, and Rosa Publishing House was the first publishing house in Qatar, followed by Dar Al-Watad, followed by Dar Nabja, then there are many publishing houses, whether private or semi-governmental, such as Qatar University Press, Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press, and publishing houses affiliated with research and study centers.
She explained that Qatar today is witnessing a diversity of publishing houses, which is in the interest of the reader and society, noting that the reality is less than ambitious and we are still in the first step and there is an agenda of goals to be achieved that require partnership between authors, publishers and society.
Al Kuwari concluded her speech by saying that the Amman International Book Fair in its current edition provided the opportunity to inform the Jordanian and Arab reader about the reality of the publishing sector in the State of Qatar, and to build bridges of cooperation between authors and publishers from the two countries.
On his part, Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Rahim Al-Sayed spoke during his intervention in the symposium about the history and origins of the publishing industry in the State of Qatar, indicating that Qatar is one of the first countries in the Arab world with the beginning of the era of the founder Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani to pay attention to books, where books were printed in the country and also purchased from India, Egypt and Baghdad and distributed to villages and those interested in reading, then the era of Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al Thani followed, where interest in books in all its forms began, starting with printing and distributing books and publishing major books, whether it was in history, literature, Islamic books, or Arabic poetry, and collecting large manuscripts considered among the most precious Arabic manuscripts, in addition to establishing the Qatari Library as a public library in the country, which was the first official library in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in 1958.
Ibrahim Al-Sayed continued on the history of the Qatari publishing industry, mentioning that Qatar was one of the first countries to join the International Deposit Number in the early 1980s and was interested in publishing by assigning a book number, whether it was the Qatari Book House number or the Qatari Deposit Number, and adding that the process of publishing in the governmental form continued through government institutions, such as the former Ministries of Information and Culture, through the National Council for Culture and existing bodies, until 2017, which witnessed the beginning of private publishing.
He pointed out that there are several projects focusing on books in Qatar, which will have a good future in increasing the Qatari cultural and knowledge level, explaining that the “Qatar Reads” program is one of the cultural programs that is interested in reading, books and publishing them. In addition to the presence of the Qatar National Library, which is considered one of the most important public libraries in the Arab region, in addition to the presence of several awards related to cultural affairs, such as the Hamad bin Khalifa Translation Award, which is one of the most important Arab awards in this field, in addition to the Novel Award, which stems from the Katara Novel Award.
The Vice President of the Arab Publishers Union and Director of Al Watad Publishing House added that since the dawn of Qatari private publishing houses in 2017, the Qatari deposit number, which was modest at the time, has increased by 400 to 1,200 books published in Qatar for the year 2022, explaining that children’s books have also spread in the State of Qatar.
He stated that the Doha International Book Fair is one of the first Arab book fairs and is ranked fourth in the Arab world, which began in 1972 after the Beirut, Cairo and Baghdad Fairs.
It is noteworthy that the 22nd edition of the Amman International Book Fair began its activities on September 21st with the participation of 400 local, Arab and international publishing houses, whether directly or through proxy from 22 countries, and is held under the slogan “ElQuds is the capital of Palestine”, given what ElQuds represents in the conscience of the Arab nation.