September 24, 2023

Reading in the Kingdom Providing Myriad Choices

Reading in the Kingdom

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Reading in the Kingdom is experiencing a renaissance in Saudi Arabia, especially in Riyadh, the nation’s capital, known as the epicenter of book affairs and publishing in the Arab world. Riyadh’s literary market is thriving, ushering in a golden era for literature. This raises the question: how do libraries enhance engagement with books throughout the Kingdom?

The Quality of Life program, part of Vision 2030 and spearheaded by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to enrich life in the Kingdom. Libraries play a crucial role in this vision. The program has initiated projects to develop public libraries, thereby promoting culture.

Furthering this goal, the Ministry of Culture formed the Public Libraries Authority in 2020. The Minister, also the Authority’s chairman, launched an initiative to establish 153 public libraries by 2030, completing thirteen by 2022. These libraries, equipped with modern facilities like auditoriums and theatres, serve as cultural hubs, offering educational and interactive opportunities. They join existing libraries like King Fahd National Library, enriching community resources and enhancing access to books.

The Authority also introduced Munawel, a self-service book lending system. Munawel, inspired by a historical figure from Baghdad’s House of Wisdom, allows free book borrowing and returning.

Book fairs are a significant aspect of Reading in the Kingdom, with the Riyadh International Book Fair leading in diversity and attendance. The fair attracts families with a wide array of events and workshops, drawing over a million visitors and featuring international participation.

The Eastern Province hosted “The Festival of Writers and Readers,” featuring cultural programs and book exhibitions. This event further highlights the Kingdom’s cultural vibrancy.

Online bookstores have gained traction, reflecting the e-commerce boom in the Kingdom. These platforms offer a wide range of titles and convenient delivery services, making them popular among readers and researchers.

Physical bookstores and cultural cafés, like Tashkeel and Sofia in Riyadh, also play a vital role in the literary scene. They provide spaces for cultural gatherings and showcase a variety of publications.

Reader preferences vary in terms of book acquisition. Some prefer book fairs for their affordability and variety, while others value the convenience of online and physical stores equally.

The reading community often debates the merits of online stores versus physical libraries. While online platforms offer accessibility and a wider selection, libraries remain a preferred option due to their affordability and traditional experience.

Saudi Arabia’s reading interests are diverse and influenced by various factors, including major publications and current events. Trends in reading topics, especially among the youth, often focus on translated novels and books about reading itself.

The Saudi Ministry of Culture promotes reading through various initiatives. The Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission supports cultural events in cafés and has published collections of short stories. Additionally, the Commission offers a machine that prints short stories for free.

Ithra’s reading enrichment program and university reading clubs further expand the reading base. These initiatives, along with youth-led cultural projects, contribute to fostering a reading culture in Saudi Arabia, ensuring its significance for years to come.

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