Riyadh International Book Fair and the future of publishing industry

October 06, 2021
Riyadh International Book Fair and the future of publishing industry

Mashari Al-Thaydi

Saudi Arabia’s capital city is witnessing these days the activities of the Riyadh International Book Fair. This is an annual Saudi occasion and a celebration that revolves around books and the publishing industry.

Other activities also take place simultaneously benefiting people, precisely their intellect and pockets too.

The quintessence of this celebration is the book, which is the nourishment of the mind and an antidote to the soul. It is the keeper of the first secrets, the faithful transmitter of the talks of the bygone people, and the true preserver of the words of those who live in the present.

For the first time, the Saudi Ministry of Culture, and the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission are jointly organizing this major event, while in the past this task was the responsibility of the Ministry of Media. The venue of the exhibition has been changed to “Riyadh Front,” which is grandiose in form and content. We wish them every success.

The new beginning is encouraging. It is important to achieve the major goals of this cultural event, which include enhancing the public's passion for reading, encouraging the authors, and creating a profitable, mature and promising market for the publishing industry.

It is worthy to note that the global publishing market, which is currently valued at $92.68 billion, is expected to have an annual growth rate of 3 percent over the next five years, reaching $104.21 billion by 2025. E-books have achieved a growth rate of approximately 12 percent annually while audiobooks recorded the highest growth rate of 24.4 percent.

At this juncture, what concerns me the most is the hollow discussions that are taking place about the means of publication, especially the print media and the printed books. All these talks are misleading, sterile and harmful.

No sane person talks about “the sanctification of the print.” Rather, our talk is about glorifying the industry itself, its origins, standards and professionalism. ... We are talking about showing at least some “respect” for professionalism, instead of dabbling over the matter.

Produce for me a “real” book and a "real" newspaper, and then I don’t care about the medium of publication, whether it is print, papyrus, plastic, or virtual space.

As for the current trend towards audiobooks, it is a necessary and commendable endeavor in this age where a person has become breathless and galloping, with neither finding the time nor having the opportunity to focus himself on the pages of a book and engage his sight and insight ... Therefore, I am making this different comment in favor of audiobooks.

This article was originally published in Asharq al-Awsat.

October 06, 2021
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