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Publishers hear unity will boost impact

A national publishers' association could help improve standards and supply in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Book publishers in the region need to work together more closely to have a greater impact in the increasingly competitive international literary market, experts said at a forum this week. A national publishers association could ensure common standards, improve distribution and help overcome supply difficulties throughout the Arab world.

Jumaa al Qubaisi, the director of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, told publishing executives at the forum that the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) was ready to provide all the facilities needed to establish such an association in the UAE and to help develop the translation, publication and distribution of books in the region. "It is important for local publishers to understand the need for unity before the books get to the shelf," said Ana Maria Cabanellas, the president of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

"With an association they can assure that they have a common level of standard and therefore make a bigger impact on international literary markets." Arab publishers attending the Frankfurt Book Fair in October proposed establishing an organisation to oversee distribution and overcome current supply difficulties at a similar forum organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation. Ms Cabanellas thinks such a move would be timely. In 2010, Abu Dhabi is playing host to the biannual IPA copyright conference at which members discuss copyright enforcement and legislation.

Another initiative pushing the UAE's publishing drive is Kitab, a joint project between Adach and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Kitab now organises the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and is designing a book distribution system for the Arab world. It also promotes reading in the UAE and is putting measures in place to combat piracy. Claudia Kaiser, Kitab's general manager, said: "As Abu Dhabi has developed so quickly as a cultural centre of the last few years, it has great potential to become the hub for publishing in the Arab world."

Adach and Kitab are working closely with Kalima, a non-profit organisation that funds the translation into Arabic, publication, and distribution of 100 works of classic and contemporary writing from other languages each year. Mr Qubaisi also mentioned the Qalam project, which helps novice Emirati authors get into print, as well as publishing the works of deceased Emirati writers. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, launched in 1990, is one of the fastest growing in the Middle East. Next year's event will try to establish a database for international publishers to do business with the Arab world.

"There will be the opportunity to obtain US$1,000 (Dh3,670) grants to go towards obtaining the intellectual rights to books from Arab publishing houses, which will act as a huge incentive for foreign investment," said Ms Kaiser. The book fair, to be held between March 17 and 22, will be the first Arab exhibition to offer old and rare books for sale. It will also continue to introduce authors and intellectuals from the Arab world through the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, a prize for contemporary creative writing in Arabic. It will also feature a children's corner dedicated to children's publishers and host a dialogue forum which will welcome many internationally established authors.

aseaman@thenational.ae

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