Business & Economy

Publishing industry struggles to survive amid Egypt’s economic crisis

By Carles Grau Sivera

Cairo, Feb 5 (EFE).- Book publishers in Egypt, a cultural hub in the Middle East, are struggling to keep the industry afloat amid soaring inflation and a plunging currency that caused paper prices to quadruple in less than a year.

“A year ago, I bought a ton of paper for 17,000 Egyptian pounds. Now I buy the same amount for 65,000. It’s crazy, it’s like they’re selling drugs because you can make a fortune if you have a couple of tons of paper,” Karam Youssef, founder of the Egyptian publishing house al-Kotob Khan, tells Efe.

Like many Egyptian publishers, Youssef had to take measures in the face of the economic crisis while striving to limit the impact on the price of the final product, especially during the 54th edition of the Cairo Book Fair, an event that attracts millions of visitors every year.


After the Egyptian pound lost almost 50% of its value against the US dollar, the government decided to suspend paper imports a policy that drove prices up by 280%.

This has forced publishers to be more selective, drastically reduce the number of copies they produce and discard translations.

Thirteen-year-old Hala comes to the Cairo Book Fair to buy English language books but regrets there are not many options available this year.

Al-Kotob Khan used to publish 20 books a year but that number had to be slashed by half in the wake of the crisis.

Mohamed al-Baaly, the founder of Sefsafa publishing house, explains he was forced to cut book printing by 70% in order to face the crisis.

“For example, we used to print 500 copies of a translated book of poetry by a foreign author in the first edition, now we only print 100,” al-Baaly says.


Publishers have had to take matters into their own hands to preserve both their business and the passion for reading in Egypt.

“Digital printing is one of the solutions,” Youssef says, explaining it is less expensive than traditional printing if the goal is to keep the number of copies relatively low.

Al-Baaly, who has been forced by the crisis to postpone several projects, has begun to print books abroad, where costs are lower.

“For example, a ton of paper costs $1,000 in Lebanon, and costs about $1,500 in the region, on average. But in Egypt the price has gone up to $2,000,” he says.

But despite the extra cost, publishers like al-Baaly and Youssef acknowledge that the crisis affects all Egyptians equally, so they have applied discounts of up to 50% during the Book Fair.

“We must offer something to the readers because if they have come here, they should at least go home with a few books,” Youssef concludes. EFE


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