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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 March 2019

Celebrating 10 years of the Emirates Publishers Association – reflecting on the past and embracing the future

For a decade, this dedicated industry platform has been bringing its passion for the written word to the region and the wider world

Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi is vice president of the International Publishers Association and founder and president of Emirates Publishers Association. Delores Johnson / The National
Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi is vice president of the International Publishers Association and founder and president of Emirates Publishers Association. Delores Johnson / The National

"It takes a whole village to raise a child". Anyone who has raised and nurtured a child would appreciate the depth and the truth behind this African proverb. It takes years of consistent efforts, vision, and care to raise a well-rounded child who would be well placed in the world and give back to society. I believe this proverb can also be applied to any other human endeavour. This was certainly the case for the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA).

This month, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the (EPA). It is an occasion for all of us in the industry to step back and appreciate the journey we have made in creating and nurturing this organisation.

Fuelled by boundless passion and love for the written word, EPA began as a dream for me and a group of about 13 Emirati publishers about a decade ago. Today, the EPA family boasts around 138 publishing houses and counting.

Faith, dedication and commitment are part of our story. Our loyal executive team, members, and partners have all worked relentlessly to achieve our fundamental goal; enhancing the publishing sector's contribution to the United Arab Emirates' cultural, social and economic development.

The challenges were enormous especially in the beginning. But our faith in the mission kept every one of us going forward. Today, EPA’s members continue to work as one and to exert their best efforts in making our association a reliable, trusted and successful hub for publishers. And to them, I express my deep gratitude, not only for their loyalty, but also for their grit and hard work throughout the years.

2019 is a special year for us. I look back at the past 10 years with pride. It fills my heart to witness what our association has accomplished in a period that is relatively short in comparison with the long history of the publishing industry worldwide. We have achieved, in a relatively short period, what took other publishing associations decades to do so. Today, EPA developed a very strong brand name not only within the UAE, but also on a regional and international level. Our work has given UAE publishers a unified vision, as well as a unique voice, one which is a reflection of the energy of our industry, culture and country.

Our achievements are too many to count. I am especially proud of the One Stop Shop project, which is an integrated information and services centre offering a unique, comprehensive service, experience and great support for our publishers. It is a global first. Nowhere else in the world can publishers enjoy a seamless experience similar to the one we are offering through this platform. We have a lot of parties to thank for this milestone. Among them is the National Media Council whose invaluable support led to transforming this project into a reality.

The 1,001 Titles initiative, which year after year, has been enriching local, regional and international libraries with valuable Arabic content is another achievement of which we are very proud. This initiative also encourages and supports homegrown writers and connects everyone in the publishing ecosystem under one platform.

And last but not least, the recent launch of Manassah has been another great milestone. Through this initiative, UAE publishers are given the space and support to participate and showcase their work at local, regional and international book fairs. Manassah also offers them an opportunity to present their work in front of many visitors globally paving the way for them to enter new markets outside the UAE.

We have a well-established presence in most renowned international book fairs and events, and are part of numerous regional and global strategic conversations that shape our industry.

Thanks to these and other initiatives, we are now in a position of strength. We have a well-established presence in most renowned international book fairs and events, and are part of numerous regional and global strategic conversations that shape our industry.

Looking to the future, I see a bigger role for EPA. I believe we can move from being an association that solely unifies the UAE’s publishing industry to one that leads it on a more regional scale while also becoming a major player and contributor towards this sector internationally.

We have the drive. We have the passion. And we certainly have the vision. And most importantly, we have the support of our leadership at the highest level. UAE’s leaders appreciate books and culture. They understand the importance of creating and sustaining a reading nation. They also launch initiatives that support both books and publishers, creating as a result a vibrant and dynamic environment and propelling our industry to the forefront of the country’s drive towards the 2071 vision as a result.

The support of our government is also important for the growth of the publishing industry in the UAE. EPA is in constant communication with different government departments to create awareness about the sector’s issues and challenges, and to build a common consensus on what we are trying to achieve and why it is important for us to do so.

Many governmental entities have been supporting us throughout our journey, to which our very deep gratitude goes. The National Media Council is a great example of that. They understand publishers’ needs which makes them our ideal strategic partner in lobbying for change. The Ministry of Economy has also been working closely with us for the past 9 years on setting up the first Reproduction Rights Organisation (RRO) in the Arab World. The journey has been challenging but the Ministry has been very supportive and understanding of the impact of the RRO in our part of the world. I am happy to say that after many meetings, workshops and seminars we are finally working towards this goal.

We are also leading ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Culture and are thrilled with their positive response and support of EPA’s mission. I therefore remain confident that our partnership will further advance the publishing and cultural sectors in the UAE.

Equally important is the Ministry of Education. We have not yet fully activated our partnership with them and know that we can achieve much more together. Therefore, we are trying to push for further integration and collaboration with them. I have tremendous faith that we can achieve so much more if we put our minds and hands together as we seek to reach our common goal and elevate the status of books and reading in our country.

EPA cannot grow and take the UAE publishing industry to global levels alone. It will need a village to raise it, nurture it, and care for it. One thing I am sure about: by 2029, we will gather again to celebrate another of decade of success for the UAE publishing industry. We will celebrate our global leadership and impact. We will celebrate our pivotal role in creating a new Arab cultural renaissance. These are challenges and goals worthy of our sacrifice and our collaboration.

Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi is vice president of the International Publishers Association and founder and president of Emirates Publishers Association

Updated: March 10, 2019 08:29 PM

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