As a former regional director for an AI company and an international publishing consultant, I have dedicated myself to exploring the potential of AI in the book market, undertaking extensive research on how AI influences everything from content creation and production to distribution and reader engagement. And I believe the Arabic book market is poised for a remarkable transformation over the next 5 to 10 years, driven by the escalating influence of AI.

The impact of AI on the Arabic publishing industry is already substantial, covering a broad spectrum of applications that promise to elevate the quality and accessibility of Arabic books. Chief among these applications is improved content recommendation, which I believe could revolutionize the reading experience for Arabic audiences by offering targeted, highly personalized book recommendations based on individual preferences, past choices, and real-time feedback. AI-driven marketing tools and predictive analytics, as well as the automation of content categorization and metadata management, will play a pivotal role in promoting Arabic books, targeting audiences through tailored promotions. All of this will make it easier for readers to discover relevant Arabic content and will propel the Arabic publishing sector forward.

In relatively short order, I believe AI will profoundly transform the entire Arabic book life cycle, from creation to distribution. AI’s potential uses include language processing and translation, content creation, editing, and proofreading. Authors and publishers alike will be able to use AI to streamline processes, enhance content quality, and broaden their readership. AI can assist authors through automated writing assistance, including grammar and style checks or suggesting improvements that enhance readability. Significant operational efficiency and cost reductions will be achieved through automated workflows, and accessibility will be improved through technologies such as text-to-speech (TTS) and speech-to-text (STT), which will expand the reach of Arabic literature by facilitating the creation of audiobooks and improving accessibility for visually impaired readers.

Getting there will require work, however. Challenges must be addressed, including complexities in the Arabic language, quality assurance, content originality, data availability, and implementation costs. The integration of AI into the book business also raises a host of ethical considerations, including concerns about plagiarism, privacy, bias, copyright, and errors, and more broadly, economic impacts and the potential loss of human creativity, transparency, informed consent, cultural sensitivity, and education and awareness.

Addressing these ethical challenges necessitates publisher and author involvement in responsible AI development. We must have clear guidelines, industry standards, and an ongoing conversation among diverse stakeholders to ensure that AI enriches the book industry while upholding the highest ethical standards and values. This will require education and training protocols, data quality assurance, bias monitoring, robust privacy protection, and well-defined accountability mechanisms, including development and implementation of a strong regulatory framework.

While Western publishers have been embracing AI for a while, the Arabic publishing world is just beginning its journey. Two recent examples demonstrate AI’s potential impact: The leading online Arabic bookstore Neelwafurat is now employing AI algorithms to analyze users’ reading habits and preferences to generate personalized book recommendations that enhance the book-buying experience for its customers. And a major Middle Eastern online bookstore, Jamalon, is now using AI to assess user behavior and improve the shopping experience. And the early results, including increased sales for both stores, show just how the improved content discovery and market insights provided by AI are benefiting readers and authors alike.

When managed effectively, AI promises to significantly enhance the Arabic book industry. The technology is already beginning to reshape content creation, editing, marketing, and distribution. And while the development of AI presents exciting opportunities for a range of stakeholders, collaboration will be key. As we navigate this journey, we should embrace AI as a powerful tool that complements human ingenuity, while recognizing that it cannot replace human creativity in literature’s evolving landscape.

Fatimah H. Abbas is the founder of FALA, the Fatimah Abbas Literary Agency, based in Cairo.

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