Brace for challenges, Arab publishers told

SHARJAH // The challenges faced by the publishing industry in the era of digital revolution was the focus of discussion at the Third Arab Publishers conference.

The event at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre was attended by various dignitaries who discussed the issues affecting the industry.

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, founder and patron of the Emirates Publishers Association, opened the conference and said that intellectual property rights was an issue affecting the UAE.

“Countries that protect intellectual rights witness higher economic and industrial prosperity, and a more effective cultural and creative life than other countries,” said Sheikha Bodour, who is also chairwoman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority.

“This contributes to enriching two main components – culture and economy.”

She pointed to last year’s Global Innovation Index, issued by Cornell University in New York, which ranked the UAE first in the West Asia and North Africa.

This ranking, she explained, reflected the UAE’s efforts in fighting piracy and emphasised the importance it placed in creating an environment supportive of a knowledge-based economy.

“If books are truly a mirror of society, then publishing is the engine of thought,” Sheikha Bodour said.

“Revitalising this sector, supporting the various elements that guarantee its prosperity and sustainability, will mean that we will be able to keep up with the daily changes, and take advantage of the opportunities behind them.”

Alec Ross, who acted as a senior adviser in innovation to former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, said the fast-pace of change in society meant “it is not the strongest who survive but those who are more adaptable”.

Mr Ross urged publishers in the region to make use of new technologies that help them to protect their copyrights.

“Intellectual property is so important to protect. If publishers don’t make a profit they go out of business and we will have destroyed an industry,” he said.

“This is a crucial industry that created quality edited publications as we cannot educate our children with Facebook posts and Twitter.”

Mr Ross said that the publishing industry was witnessing changes similar to what happened with the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century.

“The digital era has revolutionised the dissemination of content, and has taken information and education away from the elite and made it available to the masses, just like what happened 500 years ago,” he said.

A well-known figure in the Arab World’s publishing industry, Ibrahim El Moallem, founder and chairman of Al Shorouk Group in Egypt, also spoke at the conference.

He urged for freedom of expression in the publishing industry.

“This is because as a publisher you may not agree with the ideas that are being presented but you provide the author the platform to publish his thoughts,” Mr El Moallem said.

He emphasised the importance of the role the publishing industry plays in documenting the present and providing trustworthy sources for future historians.

The two-day conference concluded on Tuesday.

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