Núria Cabutí is the CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, the largest Spanish-language publishing house in the world, which is based in Barcelona. She is giving a keynote speech as part of this year’s book fair. She shared her thoughts with us prior to this year’s fair. [related]

Have you been to the U.A.E. or the Arabic-speaking world before?

This is the first time I have visited the U.A.E. I think it’s an interesting culture, with age-old traditions. I am terribly excited to be able to participate in the Sharjah Book Fair and have the opportunity to build synergies with the people here. It’s an opportunity to get to know new markets and meet publishers and authors from different cultures, but with common interests.

What do you see as the potential market relationship between Spanish and Arabic publishing?

Arabic is the fifth most-spoken language in the world, with around 300 million speakers. For that reason, I think this is a very interesting market with a huge growth potential. In addition to making our authors known to Arab audiences, this could be a sterling opportunity to discover new writers and make new books available to Spanish readers. We hope to do some deals that will see us translating the big names on our backlist into Arabic. The challenge, though, is to acquire understanding of Arab culture in order to comprehend the interests and preferences of a hitherto little explored market.

As the head of a publishing house, what advice do you offer to other publishers about the future of reading and technology?

Technology is exerting an increasing impact on the different aspects of our lives, and on the book market as well. For example, technology makes it possible for us to reach more readers and offer them new reading experiences, such as audiobooks, which give us the possibility to enjoy content in a different, more immersive way, letting others, in some cases the authors themselves, tell us the story. Our experience tells us that the different formats will coexist in the long term. Most people prefer print, which represents 90% of our sales, but an increasing number of readers have come to enjoy reading through digital media.

Artificial Intelligence also poses a very important challenge to our industry. It is essential that we analyze and gain an in-depth understanding of AI to be able to make the most of its advantages, making sure that our authors and readers also benefit from them. We must be open to whatever breakthroughs may be coming our way and learn to make the most of what they may offer but always protecting the intellectual property and the interests of our authors.

Can you recommend two books you have read recently that offer guidance for a better life?

Sin Miedo by Rafael Santander. The title translates to “fearless” in English. Rafael Santander is one of the best-known psychologists in Spain and his books have sold more than half a million copies. This looks at how to overcome various phobias, anxieties, obsessions or any other irrational fear. This book is especially relevant in the post-pandemic world, which has left many people feeling vulnerable.

Sentir by Miriam Tirado. Míriam Tirado, is a conscious parenting consultant and journalist. In this book, she guides us on a journey through a series of feelings. The goal is to make us understand why we find it so hard to nurture and assertively channel the things we feel, particularly those pent-up feelings we all harbor and need to release. It is a meaningful, practical book that is full of tools and resources that should help readers to cope better with their emotions and empathize with those of others.

Both these are exciting Spanish authors and we would be delighted to see their work published in Arabic.