Book piracy costing millions in the Middle East

Rapid growth of the pirated books market remains a top concern for official operators in the region
Book piracy costing millions in the Middle East
Rawan Dabbas, the head of international relations at the Emirates Publishers Association.
By Megha Merani
Wed 06 Mar 2019 03:49 PM

Book piracy in war-torn countries in the Middle East is costing publishers and authors millions in lost revenue, according to Rawan Dabbas, the head of international relations at the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA).

Speaking on the sidelines of the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai, Dabbas said the rapid growth of the pirated books market remains a top concern for official operators in the region.

“This [piracy] happens all the time, especially in this region, where now there are a lot of war-torn countries or countries with lots of poverty, where the focus is on giving children access to books, giving people access to books, especially in schools and universities where the books are too expensive,” she said in an interview with Arabian Business.

“In Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, for example, you find it with all sorts of books - children's books, educational books, fiction, textbooks, everything. That's authors and publishers losing all that royalty.”

Book pirates typically take a full book, photocopy it and resell it as a cheaper version of the original book, Dabbas explained. In some instances, the pirates also change the cover or fonts.

“And that's a shame because usually the publisher would have spent a lot of time and effort and money producing a decent book – and then you have someone who takes that book, copies it for not even a quarter of what the publisher has spent, and sells millions and millions and millions of these copies,” she said.

In addition to pirate sellers looking for a market, Dabbas said that there is also a culture of readers looking for a market where pirated books are available “because it's less costly [and] it's easily accessible unfortunately”.

She added: “Sometimes the pirated book competes with the original book because it becomes more popular – and people don't even know when they're buying the book that they're actually buying the pirated version of the original version.”

Dabbas, also a lawyer, said that while laws to protect both authors and publishers exist they do not oblige anyone to take action.

“You have to report it,” she said, adding that the process is time consuming, at times inconvenient and not worth the hassle for some.

“Selling pirated books has become a market on its own. There are stores especially dedicated to pirated books and they do get shut down. You can report them. But it's up to the publisher and the author or whoever is losing out on those deals to make a complaint.”

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