Largely ignored by the outside world, the Algerian book market is a vibrant one, full of promise.
Earlier this month the Algiers International Book Fair wound up, having clocked a record-breaking 2.2 million visitors. Now a survey confirms keen book interest among Algerians, with Arabic, French and English language titles leading the way.
68% of those surveyed read Arabic, compared to 41.6% in French and 12.7% in English.
What we don’t know is how much availability determines those results. There are very few English-language titles available in the country, and it would seem even fewer books are available in the Amazigh (Berber) language.
That may change in the future. Last month Algeria’s Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, speaking at the opening of the Algiers IBF, said an Algerian Academy of Amazigh Language would be set up before end 2018 that would encourage publication of works in the language.
While the survey of 1,000 people extrapolated for a population of 42 million may not give us an entirely accurate picture of Algeria’s reading habits, 2.2 million turning out to a book fair in the capital (population less than 3 million) should leave us in no doubt that the readers are there.
Do 90% really prefer print to ebooks? That may be because so few ebooks are available. Needless to say the Big 5 western ebook retailers are nowhere to be seen, and Algeria’s two domestic ebook stores have very little content to entice readers. The usual chicken and egg problem.
With 18.5 million Algerians online that’s a bigger potential digital market than the Netherlands.
We’ll learn more about the Algerian book market in 2019, as Actualitté reports.
The national survey will continue throughout Algeria in the coming months, said Algerian Minister of Culture Azzedine Mihoubi, and will identify the response of Algerians to book and reading. An inter-professional meeting with the Ministry, bringing together publishers, the Directorate of Books and Public Reading at the Ministry of Culture, the National Book Center and the two book unions, is expected to lead to new measures on the market for edition in Algeria.