New Initiative Taps Arab Book Market: A Q&A with Kalima Chief Executive Karim Nagy
Extra: Why have so few books been translated into Arabic thus far?
Nagy: The Arab book market is very fragmented. The market has also suffered historically from a lack of quality translation and translators, piracy, [and] weak marketing, merchandising and distribution channels. These issues are compounded by cultural, social, economic and even linguistic factors that have made the Arabic-speaking markets relatively less attractive than other regions for the international publishing industry. Kalima is dedicated to rebuilding the Arab library and reviving translation in the Arab world.
Extra: Beyond the initial selection of titles chosen for this project, what titles/genres should publishers consider for translation into Arabic?
Nagy: Kalima plans to translate 100 titles a year. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to pick only 100 titles each year out of the many thousands of works from all over the world that have been written over the centuries. … It’s important that as we do this, we strike a balance in the genres and categories of books we select. … We are partnering with publishers to ensure that a wide variety of books … are translated into Arabic.
Extra: Are new forms of digital distribution going to play a part in Kalima’s efforts?
Nagy: There will certainly be a digital element to Kalima. Books will be available to download from our Web site and will be available via other libraries in digital form. However, [print] books are still the medium of choice for the vast majority of readers. The death of books and printing has been predicted many times since the advent of the Internet; however, the publishing industry is healthier than ever, and certainly for the foreseeable future, we believe that many readers will want to read from a book, rather than a computer screen.