They talked about the most prominent crises.. and proposed solutions to many obstacles
With the increase in the problems of counterfeiting and piracy of books in recent years, the continued weakness of financial support and the exacerbation of the global economic crisis, the publishing industry in Egypt has become greatly threatened, which necessitated a meeting of the parties to this industry to discuss the situation and propose practical and quick solutions to save it. Challenges and Solutions”, which was held at the “Al-Dustour” Cultural Salon.
The symposium was attended by: Dr. Mohamed El-Baz, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Editorial Board of “Al-Dustour”, Said Abdo, President of the Egyptian Publishers Union, Gerges Shoukry, Secretary General of Publication at the General Authority for Culture Palaces, and publisher Ali Abdel Moneim, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Arabookverse UK. Publisher Ahmed Al-Saeed, founder of the House of Wisdom for Arts and Culture, publisher Hussein Othman, executive director of Dar Risha, writer and media personality Dr. Safaa Al-Najjar, founder of Atyaf Publishing House, Dr. Fatima Al-Budi, founder of Dar Al-Ain Publishing, and Sherif Bakr, executive director of Dar Al-Arabi Publishing. The “Constitution” symposium was presented by the journalist and academic researcher Hossam Al-Damrani, and moderated by the cultural editor Khaled Hammad.
Muhammad Al-Baz: Submitting recommendations and suggestions to the “National Dialogue”
Dr. Muhammad Al-Baz said that talking about the publishing crisis and its challenges is most of the time a “canned talk,” although it is one of the most important topics that should receive real and serious discussions.
He explained, during his speech at the symposium, that despite realizing the problem and the solutions, there is usually what prevents the implementation of those solutions, indicating that the discussion of the “constitution” seeks to re-raise the question about the challenges of publishing, and the possibility of taking more serious steps for the sake of this industry.
He described the discussion on the matter as one of the national dialogue sessions on the publishing industry in Egypt, pointing out that recommendations and suggestions can be submitted to the national dialogue, and published in the media with the participation of various publishing parties, whether governmental or private.
Al-Baz indicated that the media played an influential and effective role in the success of the Cairo International Book Fair in its last session, despite the calls that incited to boycott it, because the media saw the fair as a national event that must be dealt with in the media on this basis for its success, which is what has already been done.
Saeed Abdo: The issuance of deposit numbers has been suspended for a period of the greatest crisis
Saeed Abdo confirmed that the problems of the publishing industry in Egypt are known and specific, and he mentioned, for example, the problems of the black market for deposit numbers, the increase in counterfeit copies, and the decline in government support, in addition to the laws governing the industry, wondering: When do we start the road to a solution?
He added, during his speech at the “Constitution” symposium: “I see that the publisher is a second-class citizen, although health, culture and education are the pillars of building a person in any country.”
The head of the Publishers Union touched on the laws governing the issue of publishing, saying: “There is a defect in the interpretation of the law, and publishers are also part of the problem.”
He pointed out that the issuance of deposit numbers stopped issuing some time ago due to several reasons, including the appointment of a new head of the National Library and a new Minister of Culture, which exacerbated the problem, especially since the purpose of the deposit number is to record any book copy that is published in Egypt’s memory, so that the state has data on it. All books issued, whether issued by the Church, Al-Azhar, or any small or large publisher, or even what is published by the Information Center in the Council of Ministers, provided that these publishers are members of the Egyptian Publishers Union.
Abdo pointed out that the suspension of issuance led to the problem of the emergence of a black market for deposit numbers, adding: “For example, one of the member publishers takes a number of deposit numbers, and only publishes a book with one deposit number, then he can then grant other deposit numbers in his possession to non-members.” Publishers Association, which creates a parallel market, and unfortunately there is no penalty for this.
He affirmed the Publishers Union’s endeavor to change the legislative environment incubating publishing, especially in light of the current development that this industry is experiencing in Egypt and the world, in addition to the continuation of seeking to return the support of the Ministry of Culture, which stopped for nearly 15 years, until it returned during the era of Dr. Enas Abdel Dayem, Minister of Culture. The previous one, for the amount of 150 thousand pounds.
Gerges Shoukry: We need legislation to catch up with “digitization”
Gerges Shoukry saw that there is a defect in the implementation of the law related to the filing numbers of issuances, stressing that no one is against the implementation of the law.
Shukry said: “I am personally very keen to deposit at least 5 or 10 copies of any book published with us at the Book House, so that we have a preserved and documented memory.”
He added, “After the book fair, I learned that officials had taken a decision not to have deposit numbers for books, because there have been publishing houses laden with debts for years. I was surprised that I had book debts since 2004, and this is an absurd thing, because I print my books at Dar Al-Maarif, and the house gives me receipts to deliver the copies after printing, so where did these debts come from? So he saw that “having documented data and information on payment is much better.”
When asked about what is preventing the institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Culture from catching up with “digitization” and the e-book, “Shukry” said that he has become director of publication in the General Authority for Culture Palaces since 2017, and has adhered, since that time, to the publishing philosophy followed in the authority, considering that this development is in this The file needs new legislation and mechanisms, which of course are not available at the present time. He touched on what the state wants from publishing, saying that “each time period differs from the other, in light of the presence of data that determine the nature of what is published from one period to another. However, despite the change that occurs every period of time in the nature of the state’s interests in what is pushed for publication, the regulations and laws that govern the publishing process have not changed for many years.
He added: “Publishing in the General Authority for Culture Palaces began in the nineties, and for 3 decades we are still under the same regulations and laws, although we have to keep pace with the current development that governs the publishing industry in general, and that each institution has its own philosophy in publishing, and present a publishing plan every year.” ».
He stated that the General Authority for Culture Palaces supports 50% of the cost of the book, and the family library participates in that, unlike the rest of the institutions of the Ministry of Culture.
Ali Abdel Moneim: The weakness of the distribution system is a disaster
Ali Abdel Moneim monitored many problems facing workers in the publishing industry, whether publishers, authors or readers.
Abdel Moneim said: “The publisher’s crisis is represented in the violation and infringement of property rights, the extreme weakness in the distribution system, and the censorship of publishing in some Arab countries, in addition to the unwillingness to develop and digital transformation among some of these publishers.”
He added: «The current economic crisis, the Russian-Ukrainian war and other international crises, are all matters that affected the printing materials. cents in 2021, it reached a dollar and 67 cents in 2022. As for the readers, what concerns them is the high prices of books, especially in light of the decline in their personal incomes, in addition to the fears that accompany them from “online purchases” and electronic payments, due to the fear of hacking their bank accounts, according to “Abdul Moneim.” He drew attention to the crisis currently surrounding young authors, indicating that some of them do not know their rights well, and fall under the exploitation of the “publishing mafia”, as he put it, pointing at the same time to the absence of the publishing infrastructure, which requires the presence of sound information and data about the publishing industry. , especially with publishing challenges exacerbated by a lack of funds and grants to support authors and literary projects.
Ahmed Al-Saeed: 100 publishers left for the Gulf
Ahmed Al-Saeed saw that publishing in Egypt “does not represent a real industry,” with recognition from the state, explaining: “Publishing has become the easiest profession that can be practiced, in light of the chaos and absence of standardization.”
Al-Saeed called for the state’s intervention to support this sector, through many important steps, including the establishment of a specialized body for the development of the publishing industry, referring to the support provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the publishing industry, through the establishment of the “National Authority for Publishing and Translation”, as well as the UAE and its role in Supporting publishers, and China is also supporting this important industry with the award of “The Best 100 Chinese Publishers”.
He concluded by saying: “The challenges of publishing in Egypt made more than 100 Egyptian publishers go to the Gulf to work in this field there.”
Safaa Al-Najjar: We do not have a publishing policy
Dr. Safaa Al-Najjar criticized dealing with the publishing industry as “distribution outlets, not a heavy industry.”
She explained, “The state’s concept of culture and publishing depends on the Minister of Culture, his vision, and his interests. There is no publishing policy as part of the state’s cultural policy.”
She added, “So far, the Ministry of Culture has not made publishing a part of its cultural policy and map,” calling on intellectual parliamentarians to activate their roles, by adopting publishing issues and making it a major part of the state’s cultural policy, issuing laws and amending legislation in a way that contributes to advancing the concept of publishing in the country.
Hussein Othman: Social media created half-talents
Hussein Othman highlighted the importance of archiving old books and making them available to serve researchers and writers, especially those interested in history.
He also touched on the role of social media platforms and their impact on the publishing industry, which he described as disastrous. He explained: “I contributed to the promotion of half-talents, so that anyone could write anything and harvest interaction and fans, then turn into a writer without looking at the value of what he writes, and this greatly affected the industry, in addition to using these platforms to promote copycat copies of works.” original without account or punishment. Othman pointed out the importance of strengthening cooperation between publishers and academics concerned with culture to control public performance, praising the role of the Diploma in Cultural Development at Cairo University, and its importance for anyone wishing to enter the world of the publishing industry.
He pointed out that there are many operational challenges, especially with regard to activating the electronic invoice, adding: “There is no such thing as selling on credit in this system, while on the ground, selling books is on credit, and this is a great injustice to the publisher.”
The director of Dar Risha called for activating the role of the media and shedding light on the problems of the publishing industry, pointing to the importance of official institutions being aware of the importance of the role played by the publishing industry in building the Egyptian person, preserving identity and raising generations.
Sherif Bakr: There are two types of publishers.. a message carrier and another a merchant
Sherif Bakr said that the state’s attention to publishing as an official industry has not happened yet, explaining that there are two types of publishers: the first is a publisher who carries a message, adopts a cause, and has a serious project, and the other is a merchant whose goal is profit only, and the difference between them is great.
And on the question: What about the presence of publishers with their eyes in grant programs and the absence of others? He emphasized that grant programs are linked to the publisher’s relations with the international cultural community, and his ability to communicate with the other, especially with regard to translation grants. In addition, translation grants are often directed towards covering publishing costs and paying translators’ wages.
He added, “Recently, there was an international program for translation grants, and I contacted those responsible for it, and they met many Egyptian publishers. Over the past two sessions, the Cairo International Book Fair witnessed many discussions between publishers and those responsible for the program.”
He added, “This does not mean that many Egyptian publishers can be described as lazy and indifferent.”
He concluded: “The most important thing that distinguishes us is the presence of a conscious Egyptian reader, in addition to our ability to bring hard currency that supports the national economy, and all we need now is for official institutions to be convinced of the importance of what we are doing, and to provide us with the appropriate facilities to continue.”
Fatima Al-Budi: “Forgers” steal books and export them
Dr. Fatima Al-Budi considered that the state does not decisively interfere in the publishing industry, even though it is a heavy industry and an important source of hard currency, asking: “Is it possible to find shops for online books? Is it normal to allow the spread of fraud on young authors?
And she warned against what she described as “book counterfeiters”, who not only steal books and re-publish them on the Internet, but also have a wide distribution network in Egypt and the Arab world, and even export Egyptian books abroad.
Messages for the “National Dialogue”: Building the Egyptian mind… and reserving more space for cultural discussions in the media
The publishers sent several messages to the current national dialogue, and Gerges Shoukry said: There must be space for culture at this current stage in the life of the nation, because building the Egyptian mind must be at the top of the agenda of the dialogue, because the great public turnout for the Cairo International Book Fair in Its last session indicates that the Egyptian people are thirsty for reading and love culture, and this must be linked to education inputs.
Saeed Abdo said, “We have to be aware, quite simply, that the publishing industry is the best ambassador to represent us before the international community at all levels, and a book does not need a passport or a visa, and it is the basic building block of Egypt’s soft power.”
The journalist, Dr. Safaa Al-Najjar, said: “We have to activate the role of the Media Committee of the Publishers Union, and reserve more media space for cultural discussions.”
Hussein Othman pointed out that as much as the Egyptian state held conferences under the auspices of the President of the Republic in many fields, it did not happen that a conference was held under the title of enlightenment, and therefore we demand that a conference be held under the auspices of the President to discuss the crises facing publishing in Egypt, and that It is a direct message from the state confirming its support for enlightenment efforts.
Publisher Ahmed Al-Said said that publishing is a reflection of the Egyptian identity, proposing to hold a national conference to discuss the challenges of the publishing industry that brings together all classes of society.
Publisher Sharif Bakr said, “We have to think outside the box and put forward alternatives, including that the publisher think carefully about presenting different content by matching various electronic and audio publishing media, among others, in addition to thinking about back translation as one of the most important tools for introducing the other to us.”