By Dennis Abrams
Amina Alaoui Hachimi from the Moroccan publishing house Yanbow Al Kitab is no luddite when it comes to the impact digital publishing might have on children in North Africa and the Middle East.
“The world is experiencing fast paced changes in technologies, and we are all wondering what the future of classical paper books will look like. In Morocco, though, the question is even more difficult since there are few readers to begin with. Indeed, with the high rate of illiteracy, an unsteady book supply chain, an absence of institutional support, and low purchasing power, there is very little interest in reading in general.
“So what children will read in the future will largely depend on how we will be able to provide books to the ones who cannot afford them as well as how we can stimulate interest in reading. This is what our publishing house, Yanbow Al Kitab tries to do by distributing books to disadvantaged children and organizing workshops, story telling sessions, and games to sensitize children to the importance of reading.
“However, the more promising opportunity for us in Morocco might be the development of digital books. Children love screens, and many of them have access to the internet in my country. We could use these tools, then, to arouse their interest in books. We have already started working with a telecommunications company, ‘INWI,’ to upload our stories online. We are hoping to be able to collaborate with other partners, especially with other publishing houses in the Arab world. Maybe then, the interest from children in ebooks will lead them to read ‘classical’ paper books.”