Thursday, June 17, 2010

Arabic and Book Publishing

I love listening to PRI's The World in Words podcasts. I find the tidbits enlightening. However, the podcast this time talked about a disturbing trend among Arabic readers. Based on a UN survey report less than 2% of native Arabic speakers reads even one book a year. This impacts the publishing industry, but happily there are those who are still insist on publishing.

The podcast discusses this fact, and indicates that the majority of Arabic readers, particularly Muslims, read religious books only. It is ironic that the Arabs, particularly the Muslims, have an enormous legacy of literature produced over the centuries. After all the Thousand and One Arabian Nights have endured over the centuries and translated into various languages. (The picture to the left is a 13th century manuscript of the book.) While there is nothing wrong with reading religious texts, reading literature is very important.

Literature awakens, enlarges, enhances and refines our humanity in a way that almost nothing else can. Dana Gioia

Literature is also important for language development. It opens the imagination and develops creativity.

Another issue affecting Arabic readers is the introduction of Modern Standard Arabic. This form of Arabic is treated as a second language, so that the development of literature in it, is ponderous. The Arabic speaking world is divided between reading the classical Arabic literature and developing a body of literature in its "second language".

Hopefully, the decline in reading can be turned around.

اقرابسم ربك الذي خلق
ويجري تجاهل الوصية الأولى للمسلمين ، والكثير على حساب مستقبلهم الأدبية

[Read! In the Name of your Lord who Created. (surah 96:1)
The first commandment to Muslims is being ignored, much to the detriment of their literary futures.]

Listen to the podcast.


Cox, Patrick. 2010. "Arabic and Book Publishing". PRI. Posted: June 1, 2010. Available online:

Gioia, Dana. 2006. "On the Importance of Reading". The Commonwealth. Available online:

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