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Oasis or Mirage: Are there Really Opportunities for Publishers in the Middle East?


By Edward Nawotka

We at Publishing Perspectives have offered dozens of stories about publishing in the Middle East — which, with its population of some 300 million people, looks like a fertile market for publishers. We’ve identified several opportunities and believe the region has real potential for publishers looking to grow. Andy Smart, consultant publisher of Bloomsbury Qatar, agrees and it’s something he discusses about in our lead story today about the launch of Bloomsbury Qatar’s first list of books.

But what do you think? Are the opportunities a reality or merely a mirage? Read our report from Qatar and let us know your thoughts in the comments or via twitter using #ppdiscuss.

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  1. Posted April 12, 2010 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Well, I suppose I don’t think of life in terms of business opportunities, so I can’t rightly say.

    There’s certainly an opportunity to encourage a great deal more reading here in Egypt, but it will take some doing. For one, many authors aim not so much at speaking to a local audience as to an international (read: Western) one. For two, books are expensive. (If they could be as cheap as a Mickey comic….) For three, there’s censorship to contend with.

    But, on the other hand, the bookstores for the rich keep popping up: Another branch of Diwan here, another Sherouq there.

    And I say HOORAY to Ahdaf Souief here:

    “She has a passion for improving the quality of translations,” Smart adds, “for translating a book in such a way that people will want to read and enjoy in its own right.”

    Souief’s translation of Barghouti’s /I Saw Ramallah/ is certainly top of the pile as far as Arabic-English translation goes. I also think she’s correct: Readers will take Arabic lit (in translation) more seriously when the quality of translation is as world-class as the lit.

  2. LewisM
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Maybe some of the scouts can lend some input, but I’ve heard from some agents that publishing houses in the Middle East have a reputation for not paying. I’ve even heard of instances where a publishing house just refused to return calls or answer mail.

    However good the intentions of the Qatar Foundation, however great the translators may be, I get the sense that more than a few of the agents and scouts out here cringe at the thought of working with the Middle East.

    Am I just meeting the few agents and scouts who got hosed, or do scouts in the West generally avoid doing business there?

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