In Egypt, up to 9 monthly installments are payable for a book
The opening of the Cairo International Book Fair in Egypt takes place under specific conditions. The country is going through a very difficult time economic crisis, fueled by political instability, the health crisis and the war in Ukraine. Inflation reached 21.9% in December 2022, surpassing that recorded in the previous month (18.7%).
In this context, basic needs are becoming unaffordable for the poorest Egyptians and the country’s middle class. Food prices thus gained 37.9% in the last month of 2022.
Ukraine and Russia, which supply large quantities of wheat to the country — Egypt is the world’s largest importer — but also a large tourist flow, are no longer part of the economic equation, for obvious reasons.
Almost a third of the 104 million people of Egypt’s population will live under the difficulty linein a country where inequality is still highly rated. According to the Global Inequality Database, in 2021 the richest 10% accounted for 47.6% of total national income, compared to 15.4% for the poorest 50%.
The book, a luxury product
In such a tense economic context, the books become real expensive product, its purchase is no longer possible for citizens taken by the throat. The price of the works has more than doubled, although the inflation rate of this product has not been measured accurately.
In addition to general inflation, rising manufacturing costs have worried publishers for several months. In October 2022, Said Abdo, president of the Egyptian Publishers Association, denounced the “mafia of importers, who sell tons of paper at a different price every time“, with the ArabNews. The production of local paper will represent only 20% of the volumes needed for the production of books in the country.
The opening of the Cairo Book Fair did not relieve the uneasy atmosphere in the publishing sector: ” A book became a luxury item in Egypt“, explained Mohammed El-Baaly, editor for the house Sefsafa. “It is not a basic need like food, and the population skimps on luxuries.»
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In the face of the situation, journalists sometimes print in another country, but in smaller quantities to find your way around. Or they ask the authors make it short. The economic situation can have a strong effect on the creation of literature…
My book was shortened to 60 pages instead of 100 due to increased printing costs.
– Dina Afifi, Egyptian author
Egypt, despite its reputation as a country of readers, may experience a major crisis in its publishing sector, and the International Fair, an important book event in the Arab world, will set the temperature for in the coming months.
Soon the debt?
Fearing an exodus of readers during the event, the Association of Egyptian Publishers reached an agreement with Banque Misr for the establishment of a system shocking book payments, explanationEgypt Independent.
Thanks to a terminal, Cairo Fair participants offer customers to spread the payment of their books more than 9 monthsabove all, for a fee equal to 1.5% of the amount paid.
The production fake booksmade on lower quality paper, will increase, according to Egyptian authors interviewed byBBC. The demand from readers will increase, and along with the increase of prohibited activities, in the face of poverty. In the stalls, on the streets, pirated versions of the titles can be found for 50 to 100 Egyptian pounds.
Egyptian publishers have been dealing with counterfeiting for years, particularly in the field of academic books, which are often very expensive. Egyptian publishers estimated losses at 300 million Egyptian pounds per year (ie €9 million), and lamented in 2018 strong exports, but also imports, from Lebanon or Syria , of pirated books.
Photo: Cairo International Book Fair, 2009 (photo, Mohd Tarmizi, CC BY 2.0)