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Issue 33 - February 2007

Thursday 22 February 2007

February 2007 – Spotlight on Arab Readership

(JPG) For those in the book business, Cairo Book Fair brings to mind a bustling and colorful bazaar set in the sprawling fairgrounds of Nasr City. This year was no exception as the region’s largest book fair (primarily customer focused) was held for two weeks in January/February. The opening days were reserved for meetings between publishers and visits from state dignitaries, most notably First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, who is a champion for reading causes in Egypt. On display was a massive array of books, impressive both in terms of sheer volume and variety. While religious books continue to dominate, scientific texts, social sciences and novels put in a respectable showing. Attempts to bolster the fair’s international appeal appeared to be taking effect, with stands from countries such as Indonesia, China and France.

While programs for the fair seminars were in scarce supply, more than 80 people managed to find their way to the Next Page presentation on Arab readership. The report based on empirical research with 5 000 total respondents in Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia marks the first time that comprehensive data on readership including habits, attitudes, preferences, languages, pricing, channels, segments, accessibility, purchasing behavior and more has even been made available. The first phase of the research was conducted in 5 countries and a second phase covering Syria, Jordan, Algeria and Palestine will be completed in summer 2007. The resulting reports titled “What Arabs Read” are now freely available for download from www.npage.org in the “resources” section - here.

What follows is a selection of some of the key findings:

(JPG) Readership incidence

Among the literate Arab population, the highest incidence of readers is in Egypt and Saudi Arabia (88% and 94%) and the lowest is in Tunisia and Morocco (55% and 49%). Across all 5 surveyed countries, 3 out of every 4 literate Arabs read regularly.

(JPG) Readership of newspapers and magazines

The survey shows that amongst readers in all countries, 90% are regular readers of newspapers and magazines. 10% do not read newspapers and magazines.

(JPG) Have read a book in past 12 months

85% of Arabs have read at least one book in the past 12 months according to the report findings. Amongst readers, in Egypt 92% read books, whereas in Lebanon that figure is 60%.

(JPG) Read newspapers and magazines on-line

Out of the respondents that have on-line access, 63% read newspapers and magazines on-line. The highest incidence is in Saudi Arabia (77%), the lowest is in Tunisia (55%), and in Egypt it is (62%).

Languages of reading

(JPG)

-  As a reading language, Arabic is still the most frequently read language in all Arab countries.
-  Reading in English came highest in Lebanon (19%), followed by Tunisia (8%), less than 3% in all other Arab countries
-  Reading in French came highest in Morocco (28%), Lebanon (27%), & Tunisia 19%).

Time per day spent reading

(JPG)

-  Amongst readers there was little variation (from one country to another) in the time per day spent reading

Reading Motivators
-  Overall, the key motivators for reading more are price of books and interesting topics in the preferred language.
-  Less expensive books was a key motivator for reading more in Morocco (76%) and Egypt (59%). This was of less concern in Saudi Arabia (36%).
-  Having interesting books in Arabic was a significant concern in Morocco (57%). This was a minor concern (less than 20%) in all the other countries.

Reading Deterrents
-  3 out of 4 non-readers in the Arab world would read more if they could find more interesting topics
-  Having no time and completing education are the other reasons why people do not read much
-  Having TV or Satellite is the next big reason why people read less
-  The typical age at which Arabs stop or reduce reading is age-groups 15-18 and 19-25

-  Some of the most frequently read books in the 5 Arab countries were:

  1. Egypt & Saudi Arabia: The Holy Quraan
  2. Lebanon: Gobran Khalil Gobran
  3. Morocco: Naguib Mahfouz, and other literature (Arabic & French)
  4. Tunisia: French books most popular

Download the full report “What Arabs Read” here.

For more information on What Arabs Read, please contact Arabooks Program Coordinator, Natasha Mullins at nmullins@npage.org.