Demand for e-books and audiobooks remains strong in the Arab world

While demand for e-books appears to have declined in most parts of the world in favor of the print version, the trend appears to be holding in the Middle East, the Zawya website reported. As Arab publishers present at the 12th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Publishers’ Conference revealed, the digital format of books, whether audio or print, continues to experience strong growth. Publishers said the advent of digital printing technology made it easier for them to tap into the younger generation with e-book and audiobook formats of popular titles.

As Ali Abdelmoneim Mohamed Ahmed, digital publishing consultant at Liberty Education UK, Egypt, UAE, said, sales of digital copies of classic titles grew by 14% last year in Egypt, UAE and in Saudi Arabia. According to Ali, online posts have also increased by 50%.

“More and more publishers are offering online platforms with their books having digital versions. Partnering with audio-ready platforms like Storytel and Audible also helps publishers find new audiences,” Ali added.

Publishers also attributed the high growth rate to the fact that they entered the digital publishing segment relatively later than in the United States, for example. This has led to the scenario where there is a huge demand for digital content while publishers still haven’t scaled up operations to be able to meet the demand.

“We publish less than a million book titles a year for 450 million people. We produced 8,000 audiobooks last year while the US markets had 75,000 audio titles. Despite great interest from readers, only 10% of Arabic books are currently digitized. The e-book market is experiencing an ever-increasing demand and we need to tap into its potential,” Ali added.

Another reason publishers aren’t yet able to keep up with the growing demand is online piracy, and the rather lax regulations to deal with the problem in the Arab world aren’t helping matters either. Publishers fear that their digital content will be copied by unfair means resulting in losses for publishers. A few ways that might prove effective in combating unscrupulous duplication of digital content were also discussed. These include the use of visual and non-visual watermarks, the ability to decrypt eBooks and audiobooks only by subscribers, the use of content management systems, and more.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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