Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, and Immediate Past President of International Publishers Association, during her opening keynote at the conference at Expo Centre Sharjah on Monday Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The publishing industry’s impact on the environment and vice versa require radical changes to the way books are produced, the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference heard on Monday.

The call came from Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, and Immediate Past President of International Publishers Association on the opening day of the two-day event.

“One trend that needs our immediate attention is sustainability, most importantly the impact of the book industry on the environment. It is also an opportunity to raise discussions on the book industry‘s sustainability and propose initiatives that could radically change the way we produce and distribute books, while at the same time giving us the opportunity to lead this change and be part of the process. No single publisher or bookseller or stakeholder from our ecosystem can face this challenge alone, which is why collaboration is more critical now than ever,” she said during her opening keynote address

The CEO highlighted environmental pressures, material shortages and hyper-inflation of energy and other costs of business during the conference, organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), which brings together 400 booksellers and distributes from 69 countries, as well as publishers and authors from across the globe.

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Delegates at the conference Image Credit: Supplied

The conference’s opening day started Sheikha Bodour’s keynote, an introduction by SBA Chairman Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, followed by a conversation featuring the ex-CEO of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, and Porter Anderson of Publishing Perspectives.

Sheikha Bodour also discussed the growing trend of generative artificial intelligence and its potential to bring radical changes to the way books are written, published, and consumed. “I truly believe that we are at a historic moment in our industry, and through consistent collaboration, our ability to innovate and re-imagine our industry will help transform these challenges into opportunities, she said.

Al Amiri highlighted the commitment of Sharjah to supporting the book industry both regionally and globally thanks to the leadership and directives of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri Image Credit: Supplied

“We recognise the significance of the role of booksellers and are fully aware of the main challenges hindering the development of your businesses. As such, we have organised this Booksellers Conference not only as a platform for dialogue and discussion but also as an excellent opportunity to present solutions, implement and support them, and transform successful experiences in this sector into practical lessons to learn from,” Al Amiri said.

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‘Merchants of culture’

Markus Dohle, the first Chief Executive of Penguin Random House, participated in a keynote conversation with Porter Anderson, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, titled, ‘The State of Global Publishing, Bookselling, and the Promise of Emerging Markets’. Dohle presented his views on the state of global publishing, bookselling, and the promise of emerging markets.

“The future for publishers and booksellers is bright and full of opportunities, and the data shows it,” Dohle said.

Markus Dohle (left) and Porter Anderson Image Credit: Supplied

During their discussion, the two speakers expanded on the important points Sheikha Bodouri made during her keynote address, and spoke about the impact of the industry on the world around us. Anderson said: “We are not only the merchants of culture and words, but we are custodians of the future of knowledge sharing and our industry, and it is in our hands to make this industry a sustainable and responsible one for the future of our readers and our planet.”

‘Print has prevailed’

Dohle identified six reasons why the publishing and bookselling industry is on the rise. First, the global revenue for books is showing growth year-on-year. Second, the industry is experiencing stability and profitability in distribution models. Third, there is a healthy co-existence between digital and traditional formats of books.

“What may surprise many is that 80 per cent of the market is still in physical copies, even with the additional options we have these days. Print has prevailed, and has proven to be the ‘life insurance’ for publishers and retailers,” Dohle said.

The fourth reason is that the audience is growing every year due to population growth and increasing literacy rates.

As for the fifth reason, Dohle said that the biggest market for books and publishing is for children and young adults. Finally, Dohle noted the ever-growing industry of audiobooks. He explained that listening to stories is in our DNA and that the format enables people to multi-task, making it attractive to those with busy lifestyles.

The conference’s opening day also featured a series of workshops. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about data in the book industry, sustainability, consumer book buying behaviours, effective social media campaigns, bookshop design and marketing, along with many more engaging and informative sessions.