MAKKAH: The march of technology may be accelerating in all areas of Arab life, but when it comes to reading and enjoying books, old habits die hard, it seems. he.
Despite warnings in recent years of the imminent demise of print, traditional books still hold their own against their electronic rivals, as Saudis continue to enjoy the feeling of turning a new leaf.
Many publishing houses in the Middle East have recognized the power of print, with books retaining their superiority, especially at book fairs. Buyers always prefer the elegance and feel of a printed masterpiece.
However, publishers acted early to counter the threat posed by eBooks, adopting cautious strategies to protect their publications and also tackle the growing problem of content piracy.
Rania Al-Moallem, editor-in-chief at Dar Al-Saqi, told Arab News that there is still a relatively low demand for e-books, mainly due to the limited availability of digital devices, which are still considered an article. luxury by many people. .
“Buying eBooks online is not accessible to everyone, and there is also an emotional connection between readers and printed books. Even readers able to buy e-books still prefer print, which is understandable, ”she said.
An eBook is a protected electronic copy of a book, which makes it difficult to pirate and publish illegally. The copy protects the material rights of the writer, mainly, but also of the publisher against false electronic copies found online in PDF, Word or other format.
“Dar Al-Saqi’s publications have been characterized by their format and high quality content over the years. It is mainly about acting in the reader’s interest and satisfying their tastes, as we pay great attention to subject matter, style and language, ”Al-Moallem said.
“We also focus on the final shape of the book in terms of presentation, layout, font and letter size, paper type, cover design and size. All these considerations are subject to the changes and developments experienced with the advancement of the publishing world, ”she added.
In addition to high-quality printed books, the publisher also caters to e-readers through multiple platforms and has launched an Al-Saqi digital library.
“We are aware that the e-book market is not yet well established and that the printed book is still the preferred format. However, we are also aware of the importance of engaging with e-book readers, as we believe the relationship between them is complementary rather than competitive, ”Al-Moallem said.
Despite the technological surge, it is evident that the Kingdom’s devoted readers are constantly on the hunt for the perfect copy, as evidenced by the scenes at the Riyadh International Book Fair, where people young and old alike have dated. handfuls of books.
Majid Shebr, director of Al-Warrak Publishing in London, said e-books in the Gulf region are still in an embryonic stage.
Publishers have faced problems with pirating and free downloads of PDF books online, and have filed complaints with Google in an attempt to combat the practice, he said.
The Arab states lack platforms capable of targeting free pirated books, which directly affects publishers and poses a significant challenge.
Shebr said that despite their wide availability, e-books often cause eye strain. Meanwhile, the paper book maintains its dominance in Europe and the Arab world through book fairs.
“I was in a Waterstones bookstore in London looking at the latest releases and saw that a lot of people still choose paper books,” he said.
Shebr said the competition between print and electronic formats is driven by the style of the reader and the convenience of the language.
Egyptian writer and novelist Rasha Samir said that as an avid reader, she doubted that e-books could ever match the pleasure of reading the print.
“I can’t get rid of the habit of reading paper books, and I can’t read electronically at all. The touch of a book, the smell and the written dedication of literary personalities is the secret of my attachment to this type of reading, ”she said.
“Paper books will always be my treasure that I keep on the shelves of my large library,” she said.
Some publishers believe that electronic publishing allows them to sell their publications faster, and that online advertisements are easier and cheaper than print publications.
Others believe that electronic publishing will do away with paper books, but these are the origins of the industry, and it must be fought.
Samir added: “There is no fault finding literary work electronically, as it gives easy access to several groups such as expatriates and Arabs who live far from Arab libraries. It has now become a way of supporting publications and publicizing the work of a writer; it has become a good way to shorten the distances that paper books sometimes cannot minimize.
She said the response to print or e-books often depends on the age of the reader, and older generations are reluctant to ditch paper, while younger people might view it as impractical in an era dominated by modern technology. .
With the new generation, whose lives are dominated by technology and the Internet, publications must keep pace, Samir said.
“It’s a generation that learns through social networks and no longer uses paper books as a source of information. Google is their most trusted source, which is a problem, so we have to meet them halfway, encourage them to read and learn in their own way while guiding them. We also need to get them to understand the value of books, assess their content, and distinguish valuable books from cheap books.
Even if reading on paper changes to reading on Kindle or any other device, as educated people we should continue to stand up for paper books and preserve their place.
Adel Houshan, a Saudi poet and novelist, said that even after some printing empires in the Arab world and around the world have disappeared, digital projects, including e-books and audiobooks, still suffer for two. reasons.
“The first is related to advertising, because they rely on institutions and small projects that cannot find a way to break the power of paper books and their rich history. The second reason is the Arabic book festivals, which are gaining popularity with the help of social media, ”he said.
“Years ago we said paper wouldn’t last long, but old habits die hard.”