NAT 231117 Al Ain Book Festival ALOTBI (11)-1700825330412
Visitors at Al Ain Book Festival in Al Ain City Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Al Ain: The city of Al Ain has preserved its natural environment and its beautiful oases by following a sustainable approach in line with the vision of its forefathers.

The recent edition of “Al Ain Book Festival 2023” brings together more than 150 publishers. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC) under the theme “All Eyes on Al Ain”, the festival seeks to strengthen knowledge and culture while also encouraging the local population of Al Ain to purchase the exhibited books and publications.

Sustainability is one of the key goals of the UAE’s national agenda and a pressing need of all sectors. In a recent survey of publishers about sustainability of the publishing sector and its future prospects, the majority of the respondents agreed on the importance of increasing electronic publishing for the sustainability of the sector as this would lead to reducing the consumption of paper, ink, and energy needed to produce printed books.

Sustainability of the Book Industry

Fawaz Almutairi, owner of Qahwa Publishing House said: “The production of books and the quality of paper depend on the publisher’s efforts to maintain the high standards of the publishing house. We are using lightweight paper, to make lightweight books, to promote a sustainable approach and reduce paper consumption compared to our previous books.”

He added, “The publisher receives the content from the author, and then the books go through the printing process, using several resources such as paper, ink, and energy. We believe that by reducing the use of these resources, we can achieve sustainability. The growing demand for reading materials also reflects on the work of publishing houses so the readers can contribute to achieving sustainability by preserving books and recycling them properly.”

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Use of recycled paper

Publishing expert Ahmed Afifi, who has been working in the sector for 20 years and heads the publishing department of Kuttab Publishing House, believes that sustainable practices in the publishing sector begin with a joint collaboration between publishers and readers in terms of the preference for purchasing books that use recycled paper.

This extends to increasing the production of books printed on recycled paper to make it user-friendly, helping to reduce the weight of the book as well as the shipping costs. It also cuts down on the need for new paper. We are also adopting environmentally friendly ink for printing, and strengthening community awareness about sustainability and encouraging the reading community to support this approach.”

Cultural industry

According to Amer Metwally, Sales Manager of Kalimat Publishing House, UAE, the publishing sector must embrace sustainability because it uses a lot of products that are dependent on natural resources.

He added: “The process of publishing is not just an industry but a culture and reflecting the values of a society. Publishing mirrors and reinforces the thoughts and practices of communities.”

“Hence, the concept of the ‘Green Book’ emerged in the publishing sector, which is a step forward in the sector’s sustainability journey, and a response to global environmental challenges, integrating the publishing industry with sustainability in various stages of book production.”

“The life cycle of a book involves printing, distribution, and consumption, necessitating the recycling and sustainable use of resources. The introduction of e-books is part of the solution to reduce pressure on the paper industry resources,” he added.

Sustainable approach

During the tour of the UAE Publishers Association pavilion, visitors learnt about the principles they adhere to. According to the association’s website, the UAE publishers consider sustainability in the publishing sector to be a collective responsibility. They believe sustainability requires a balanced approach between the need for book production and the demand of the readers, and it requires the publishers to play an active role in contributing to environmental preservation. The association has also emphasised the necessity to adopt alternatives and intensify research and studies into how the sector can contribute to enhancing sustainability.