Catching up with Ramy Habeeb, the World’s First Arabic E-book Publisher

In Global Trade Talk by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Last year at this time on Publishing Perspectives profiled Ramy Habeeb, founder of Kotobarabia, the world’s first publisher of Arabic-language e-books.

In “Kotobarabia’s Arabic E-Books Extend Borders” Habeeb describes a situation where censorship mean many books never saw the light of day and book distribution for 80% of the publishers in the Arabic-speaking world didn’t extend more than five kilometers from their own publishing house.

At the time, Habeeb’s company — which can be found online at offered 8,500 books in 31 subject categories, ranging from “Literature” to “Business Management,” “Banned Books,” and the provocatively titled “Hot Topics.”

We caught up with Ramy last week to get an update on his company and ask “what’s new?’

He replied:

Since last speaking to Publishing Perspectives, a lot has happened… we have digitized over 3,000 additional titles, released another collection for academic use, completely revamped our website and are (as of June 25th, 2010) waiting for the Apple Appstore to approve our first iPhone app – 1,001 Arabian Nights (iPad version to soon follow).

We also did some behind-the-scenes updates… the biggest being that we created MARC records for all our books. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MARC, it stands for Machine Readable Catalogue and is the primary method of discoverability for libraries.

On the surface, it should have been a pretty straight forward endeavor, except we had to first overcome UNICODE issues, then the whole right-to-left justification became a problem… once these issues were solved, we then had to transliterate all out titles, authors, publishers and other information using the Library of Congress transliteration style guide…Oh my – I feel like I took a degree in Library Science. That was a lot of back and forth, but thankfully we had help from a few patient librarians and our US agents, EastView, were paramount to getting it done.

I am not sure if that sounds like a lot – all I know is that it kept me busy. Perhaps a bit too busy. Now we have over 9,000 eBooks, 2 library platforms and soon (fingers crossed) an App.

I need a vacation.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.