Emirates Publishers Association Issues 10-Million-Dirham Sustainability Fund

In News by Porter Anderson

Reaching its 15th anniversary, the Emirates Publishers Association opens a 10-million-dirham fund that includes a business incubator.

At the Emirates Publishers Association’s 15th anniversary event, from left, are Abdul Aziz Al Musallam, chair of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage; Ahmed Al Ameri, Sharjah Book Authority CEO; and Bodour Al Qasimi, chair of Sharjah Book Authority and past president of the International Publishers Association.  The program was held at Sharjah Publishing City. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Our Mission Is Far From Over’
During the weekend, the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA) observed its 15th anniversary and marked the occasion by the introduction of a new Sharjah Publishing Sustainability Fund, committing 10 million United Arab Emirates dirhams (US$2.7 million) to providing “a holistic support system for the publishing industry.”

Weeks before the third iteration of the Sharjah Booksellers Conference (April 27 and 28)—more on this below—and the May 1 opening of the 15th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, the characterization of the new EPA fund’s assistance being “holistic” comes from the program’s plan to support “specialized knowledge, business acceleration opportunities, and an aim to foster innovation in the sector.” A business incubator is an element of the plan for the fund’s implementation.

The new fund is being referred to as “Onshor,” which is not a reference to the English word onshore but to the Arabic word for publish, which is spelled in transliteration as yanshar or onshor.

In a program Saturday (March 30) at Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone, directed by Mansour Al Hassani, the publishers association’s founding honorary president, Bodour Al Qasimi, who is the chair of the Sharjah Book Authority, announced the new fund’s arrival and spoke to the essential and distinctive challenges of this association, which was created when the UAE was only 37 years old. So active on the world publishing scene has Sharjah become that it can be difficult to remember that this is an association operating to support book publishing in a nation that’s even now only 52 years old.

Bodour spoke of an “extraordinary path of perseverance that began from humble beginnings with a defined vision and boundless ambition. This journey started,” she said, “with a small group of publishers united by grand dreams, aspirations and expectations. The onset was undeniably challenging, yet as the saying goes, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Despite the initial hurdles, our inspiring journey was filled with experiences, transformations, and obstacles that tested our resolve.”

“As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of EPA’s establishment, we are fully aware that our mission is far from over and that we are entering a new phase of expansion and prosperity.”Bodour Al Qasimi

And she pointed to the fund as a symbol of the fact that the association is still working to handle many of its most daunting tasks. “As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of EPA’s establishment,” Al Qasimi said, “we are fully aware that our mission is far from over and that we are entering a new phase of expansion and prosperity. This requires more concerted efforts to be able to write a new chapter of growth and excellence in the next 15 years to come.”

The new “Onshor” fund, like the EPA itself, is a program that supports publishing throughout the Emirates, not just in Sharjah itself, and has been introduced as “a strategic initiative that will contribute greatly to supporting publishers and developing the publishing industry in the UAE,” Al Qasimi said.

Also speaking was Ahmed Al Ameri, Sharjah Book Authority’s CEO, who highlighted the “adaptation, resilience, and agility” required of publishers in this market in which Sharjah’s Sheikh Sultan has established books and reading as a cultural core for the third emirate. He spoke of Al Qasimi’s leadership in creating the EPA from her position as a publisher, herself, who had created the Kalimat Group for children’s books, “recognizing a pressing demand for high-quality Arabic literature. She perceived this need not merely as routine but as fundamental to shaping a generation’s understanding of their heritage and traditions.”

Al Ameri’s emphasis in describing the new fund is on new publishers, he says, with “visionary ideas” that can add value to the emirate’s core cultural focus on publishing and reading. He describes three pillars of activity around the fund’s development—a growth stage for existing publishers in need of “tailored business acceleration”; “fostering innovation” in publishing technology; and the business incubator component of the plan for emerging publishers.

The current president of the association is Abdullah Al Kaabi, and in Saturday’s anniversary event, he said that the 15-year track record of the organization demonstrates “what can be achieved when visions are united and efforts are combined. We have many successes to be proud of, but we still have many future goals that we must work to achieve” for the UAE to become “a robust hub for Arab publishing, in which Emirati publishers will contribute to the sustainability of publishing and culture at the international level.”

A part of the program Saturday also remembered the late Ali bin Hatem, once a president of the EPA, presenting a video created to review bin Hatem’s contributions to the industry and to thank his family.

Briefly, on the Coming International Booksellers Conference

Sonia Draga, publisher of Poland’s Sonia Draga Publishing Group in Katowice and vice-president of the Federation of European Publishers, leads a targeted workshop at the 2023 Sharjah Publishers Conference. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

The third edition of the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference, on April 27 and 28, will have the benefit of what Al Ameri calls “the emirate’s deep commitment to the Arab cultural initiative and its portrayal in international arenas.”

He as CEO of Sharjah Book Authority and Al Qasimi as chair of the authority again will bring booksellers, distributors, and publishers from the Arab world and beyond it for two days of discussion, networking, and targeted workshops.

Set again this year at the Expo Center Sharjah, the program is designed to open each day with keynote addresses and discussions, followed by  the workshop sessions that have become a recent hallmark of the programming devised by the authority and Emma House.

“The emirate’s deep commitment to the Arab cultural initiative and its portrayal in international arenas.”Ahmed Al Ameri

Technically, the conference functions for many who are involved in the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (May 1 to 12) as a professional program that precedes the festival—a major book fair for younger readers’ content—much as an extensive professional program, the Publishers Conference, precedes the Sharjah International Book Fair (November 1 to 12).

In previewing the upcoming Booksellers Conference, Al Ameri points out that it’s part of the suite of events produced by Sharjah Book Authority to provide “all the elements that reinforce the emirate’s status as an international cultural hub and a center for events supporting the book industry, including publishing and distribution, and facilitating access to knowledge sources.”

The first edition of the conference was held in 2022 at Sharjah Publishing City with more than 200 distributors, publishers, and booksellers in place, and the program has grown from that point to the opening international publishing event each year of Sharjah’s portfolio. Coverage of this year’s conference and Reading Festival will follow here at Publishing Perspectives.

At the 2023 edition of Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. That book fair runs May 1 to 12 this year, like the Emirates Publishers Association observing its 15th anniversary. Image: Nabs Ahmedi


More on Sharjah Book Authority and its programming is here, more on Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is here, more on bookselling is here, and more on publishing issues and trends in the Arab world is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.