War of words as print defies e-book rivals

A large number of avid readers prefer print books over e-books as they seem to enjoy the smell and the pleasure of leafing through the pages of the books. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 18 October 2021

War of words as print defies e-book rivals

  • Tradition is trumping tech in Saudi Arabia, with readers and publishers on the same page

MAKKAH: The march of technology might be gathering pace in all areas of Arab life, but when it comes to reading and enjoying books, old habits die hard, it seems.

Despite warnings in recent years of print’s imminent demise, traditional books are still holding their own against their electronic rivals, as Saudis continue to enjoy the sensation of turning over a new page.

Many publishing houses in the Middle East have acknowledged the power of the printed word, with books maintaining their superiority, especially at book fairs. Buyers still prefer the elegance and feel of a printed masterpiece.

However, publishers acted early to counter the threat posed by electronic books, adopting careful strategies to protect their publications and also fight the growing problem of content piracy. 

Rania Al-Moallem, a commissioning editor at Dar Al-Saqi, told Arab News that there is still a relatively low demand for e-books, mainly due to the limited availability of digital devices, which are still considered a luxury item by many people.

“Buying e-books online is not available to everyone, and there is also an emotional bond between readers and print books. Even readers who are able to buy e-books still prefer print, which is understandable,” she said.

An e-book is a protected electronic copy of a book, making piracy and illegal publication difficult. The copy protects the material rights of the writer, primarily, but also the publisher compared with fake electronic copies found online in PDF, Word or other forms.

“Dar Al-Saqi’s publications have been characterized by their format and high-quality content over the years. It is mainly concerned with acting in the reader’s interest and satisfying their tastes as we give great attention to the subject, style and language,” Al-Moallem said.

“We also focus on the final form of the book in terms of presentation, page layout, font and letter size, paper type, cover design and size. All such considerations are subject to the changes and developments experienced with the advancement of the publishing world,” she added.

As well as high-quality print books, the publisher also caters to e-readers through several platforms and has launched an Al-Saqi Digital Library.


• Publishers faced problems with piracy and uploading of books in PDF format online for free, and have filed complaints with Google in a bid to curb the practice, he said.

• Majid Shebr said that despite their widespread availability, e-books are frequently said to cause eye fatigue. Meanwhile, paper books maintain their dominance in Europe and the Arab world through book fairs.

“We are aware that the e-book market is yet to be properly established and the print book is still the much preferred format. However, we are also aware of the importance of engaging with e-book readers, as we believe that the relationship between them is complementary, rather than competitive,” Al-Moallem said.

Despite the tech wave, it is evident that devoted readers in the Kingdom are engaged in a constant hunt for the perfect copy, as evidenced by scenes at the Riyadh International Book Fair, where people, young and old, walked out with handfuls of books.

Majid Shebr, manager of Al-Warrak Publishing in London, said that e-books in the Gulf region are still at an embryonic stage.

Publishers faced problems with piracy and uploading of books in PDF format online for free, and have filed complaints with Google in a bid to curb the practice, he said. 

Arab states lack platforms that can target free pirated books, which directly affect publishers and pose a significant challenge.

Shebr said that despite their widespread availability, e-books are frequently said to cause eye fatigue. Meanwhile, paper books maintain their dominance in Europe and the Arab world through book fairs.

“I was in a Waterstones book store in London to look at the latest releases and saw that large numbers of people still choose paper books,” he said.

Shebr said the competition between the print and electronic formats is driven by the reader’s style and language convenience.

Egyptian writer and novelist Rasha Samir said that as an avid reader, she doubted that e-books could ever match the pleasure of reading print.

“I cannot get rid of the habit of reading paper books and I cannot read electronically at all. The feel of a book, the smell, and the written dedication of literary figures are the secret of my attachment to this type of reading,” she said.

“Paper books will always be my treasure that I keep on the shelves of my large library,” she said.

Some publishers believe that publishing electronically allows them to sell their publications faster, and that online advertisements are easier and do not cost as much compared with paper publications.

Others believe that electronic publishing will eliminate paper books, but these are the origins of the industry, and this should be combated.

Samir added: “There is no fault in finding a literary work electronically, as it gives easy access to several groups such as expatriates and Arabs who live far from Arab libraries. It has now become a means that supports publications and advertises the work of a writer; it has become a good way to shorten the distances that paper books cannot minimize sometimes.”

She said that the response to print or electronic books often depends on the reader’s age and older generations are reluctant to abandon paper, while younger people might see it as nonpractical at a time dominated by modern technology.

With the new generation, whose lives are dominated by technology and the internet, publications need to keep pace, Samir said.

“This is a generation that learns through social media and no longer uses paper books as a source of information. Google is their most trusted source, which is a problem, so we need to meet them halfway, encourage them to read and learn in their own way while we help guide them. We should also push them to understand the value of books, evaluate their content and distinguish valuable books from cheap ones.”

Even if reading on paper transitioned to reading on Kindle or any other device, as educated people, we should continue to advocate for paper books and the preservation of their place.

Adel Houshan, a Saudi poet and novelist, said that even after the demise of some print empires in the Arab world and around the globe, digital projects, including e-books and audiobooks, still suffer due to two reasons.

“The first is related to advertising, as they rely on institutions and small projects that cannot find a way to break the power of paper books and their rich history. The second reason is Arab book festivals, which are growing in popularity with the help of social media,” he said.

“Years ago, we said that paper will not last long, but old habits die hard.”

Mangroves: Saudi efforts to protect nature’s guardians of the ecosystem

Updated 21 January 2022

Mangroves: Saudi efforts to protect nature’s guardians of the ecosystem

  • Authorities plan to plant 10 billion mangrove trees across the Kingdom as part of the Saudi Green Initiative

JEDDAH: As part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which was launched last year with the aim of tackling climate change, reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment, 10 billion mangrove trees will be planted across the Kingdom.

Mangroves, ancient coastal plants that grow partly submerged in salt water and thrive in warmer climates around the world, are considered a cornerstone of coastal environmental development and so have a key role to play in achieving the objectives of the initiative.

Ahmed Almansi, a coastal and marine environment consultant at the National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification, told Arab News that mangroves grow along the coasts of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

“This provides an impetus for the center to cultivate more mangroves in these environments,” he added.

According to the center, two types of mangroves commonly grow on the Red Sea coast: Avicennia marina, commonly known as gray or white mangrove, and Rhizophora mucronata, also known as loop-root, red or Asiatic mangrove. They are highly sensitive to cold. 

“Mangroves grow in the form of scattered patches in the intertidal areas of the Red Sea coast and are lower in height in the northern regions,” the center said. “The reason for these differences in height may be the low temperatures that the bushes are exposed to in the northern part of the Red Sea in winter.”

The avicennia marina type of mangroves that grow in the Asir and Jazan regions are the largest found on the Saudi coast, the center said, and “the coastal areas and patches of the Red Sea that contain mangroves in the Kingdom cover an estimated area of about 35,500 hectares.”

There are a number of reasons why mangroves are considered so important to environmental and conservation efforts. They have the ability to absorb pollutants such as heavy metals and other toxic substances from water, which helps to protect seagrass and coral reefs.


• The trees can protect coastal communities, provide shelter for wildlife, absorb pollution and help to combat climate change.

They also act as natural filters for sewage, preventing pollutants originating on land from reaching deep waters. And the trees help to mitigate the effects of climate change as they can absorb larger amounts of carbon from the atmosphere compared with other tropical trees.

Mangroves also form “green barriers” that serve as a first line of defense for coastal communities, protecting them from damage caused by storms and waves, preventing erosion and helping to stabilize beaches.

“These green barriers absorb at least 70 to 90 percent of wave energy generated by the winds,” said Almansi. “They are also able to reduce the intensity of tsunami waves by mitigating the catastrophic amount of wave energy associated with them, which helps reduce the loss of life and property damage.”

In addition, mangroves act as shelters and incubators for many species of fish, crustaceans and birds, providing them with a good source of nutrition. They provide nesting and resting locations for many types of resident and migratory birds, strong communities of which are considered a biological indicator of ecosystem quality. The National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification has identified 125 species that use mangrove habitats at some point in their life cycles.

Land-based animals also benefit from mangrove swamps. They provide pastures for camels on islands in the Red Sea, and provide high-quality nutrition for camels in coastal locations during the winter.

Despite their clear environmental benefits, mangroves are under threat globally from urbanization, encroachment, overgrazing, pollution, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the improper disposal of waste. The development of the tourism industry is another significant threat. But efforts are being made in Saudi Arabia to preserve and enhance this precious natural resource.

“The center is planting mangroves to rehabilitate these environments, using 60 cm long seedlings,” Almansi said, adding that nylon nets are used temporarily to protect the young plants, prevent seaweed and waves from damaging them, and encourage strong root growth and stability.

Who’s Who: Akram Jadawi, a DG at the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

Updated 21 January 2022

Who’s Who: Akram Jadawi, a DG at the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

Akram Jadawi has been the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s director general of international cooperation since May 2020.

He was appointed co-chair of the Saudi delegation at the Digital Economy Task Force in G20 Italia and was director general of G20 affairs at the National Digital Transformation Unit between November 2019 and August 2020.

In 2006, he gained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University, the following year a transition semester certificate in process engineering from the National Institute of Applied Sciences, in France, in 2009 a master’s degree in law, management science, and political science from the University of Versailles, and a Ph.D. in physics of materials (material engineering) from the French University of Rouen, in 2014.

Between July 2017 and November 2019, he was director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Knowledge Center and worked as acting director general of the ministry’s Documentation and Archiving Center from January 2018 to September 2019.

Prior to that, Jadawi held the position of deputy director general at the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund between July 2016 and July 2017 and was lead adviser to the fund’s director general from February 2016 to July of the same year.

At an international level, he has been part of government delegations attending conferences and meetings including the 2016 Employment Working Group summit held in China, where he led the official team presenting women and youth employment initiatives.

Also in 2016, he was a member of the official delegation at a session in Indonesia of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s steering committee for labor ministers, participating in a research center labor workshop.

Saudi minister, businesses discuss initiatives to develop health sector

Updated 21 January 2022

Saudi minister, businesses discuss initiatives to develop health sector

RIYADH: Saudi Health Minister Fahad Al-Jalajel on Thursday met with business leaders and representatives of private hospitals in the Kingdom.

During the meeting, they discussed initiatives to develop the health sector and reviewed Ministry of Health projects and plans to improve healthcare services and industry performance levels.

The ministry has been promoting increased investment in the sector through the adoption of international quality standards, while also establishing a business call center, working toward fully automating health licenses, supporting small and medium enterprises, and realizing government electronic integration.

The involvement of the private health sector in the transformation process has been a key part of the Saudi government’s development and integration plans for the country’s public and private health systems.

The private sector has recently worked alongside the government in helping to implement a number of coronavirus pandemic-related preventative programs and initiatives are already in place to strengthen links between public and private hospitals in the Kingdom.


International e-learning conference to open next week in Riyadh

Updated 20 January 2022

International e-learning conference to open next week in Riyadh

  • Four-day event will feature workshops by experts from around the world

RIYADH: Experts from around the world are set to take part in a four-day conference in Riyadh to discuss the future of e-learning and e-training in Saudi Arabia.

The event, which starts on Monday, has been organized by the National eLearning Center under the patronage of its CEO and Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh.

Titled “eLearning for Human Capability Development,” the conference will review the latest developments and opportunities in the field, and discuss ways to develop Saudis’ skills to enable them to compete in the global labor market.

Delegates will also review the experiences of groups like the EU, UNESCO and the International Labor Organization, and individual countries such as India.

The event will look at how platforms like edX, Coursera, and FutureLearn can help to boost people’s skills, and discuss ways to use e-learning to harmonize educational output with the needs of the labor market.

The conference will also include a number of workshops presented by experts and practitioners in various disciplines from around the world.

More details about the event are available at elhcd.nelc.gov.sa.

Saudi Arabia and South Korea sign intellectual property partnership

Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi Arabia and South Korea sign intellectual property partnership

  • The agreement will see Korean IP experts arrive in the Saudi capital

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and South Korea recently agreed to implement 35 intellectual property projects together.

A memorandum of understanding was signed on the sidelines of the Saudi-Korean Investment Forum in Riyadh by Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chief executive officer at the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, and Dr. Kim Yong Rae, commissioner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, in the presence of Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The agreement, according to a statement, “enhances the strategic partnership between South Korea and Saudi Arabia,” and will involve the secondment of Korean IP experts to Riyadh.

SAIP spokesman Yasser Hakami told Arab News that the MoU laid out the framework, projects, timeline and procedures for the specified bilateral cooperative activities.

“Within this arrangement, the two sides will implement a number of programs and projects that will foster an IP ecosystem through patent examination, IP information, and national IP strategies. There will also be an IP Academy program, in which invention classes will be provided to elementary school children. The program will also include developing and implementing promotional activities to encourage Saudi female inventors,” Hakami said.

He added that the two parties will meet regularly to review and evaluate the implementation of this arrangement and “will suggest complementary measures or future plans if needed.”

According to the agreement, the two sides may allow third parties from both countries to take part in implementing the projects. The agreement will remain in effect until all the programs and projects are completed, which is expected to take two years.

This is not the first time the two parties have collaborated. On September 25, 2018, KIPO and SAIP signed an MoU on bilateral cooperation in the field of intellectual property at a high-level meeting in Geneva.