New data reveals UAE leading global reading revolution
- Conversations about literature up 7% in the UAE and 3% globally
- Interest in independently published books booming with 27% increase in online conversations in the UAE, compared to 18% growth globally
- Research reveals six audiences driving cultural consumption and major trends in literature creation
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 19 May 2022: Heralding a new Golden Age of literature in the Middle East, a new Mapper360® report launched today by the Emirates Literature Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation spreading literacy and the love of reading across the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East, and Four Communications, a leading independent, integrated communications agency in the UK and MENA region, reveals the latest trends in reading and literature.
The report, ‘Reading between the lines: The new trends spurring literature creation and the audiences driving cultural consumption’ explores the dynamics shaping literary output and the six audiences driving the reading renaissance.
It also reveals how literature and books are affected by factors such as fan-driven social media, evolving technology, major offline and online cultural initiatives, and the changing behaviours of readers. The report shines a light on how authors are interacting and engaging with their communities, and identifies the ways in which the MENA region is rewriting its future and ushering in a powerful new golden age of reading and literature.
The research revealed:
- A reignited passion for reading: Engagement with literature and reading has soared, with stories providing a respite from the challenging events that have shaped the last two years. The upward trend in engagement with literature continues throughout 2022 with consumers reawakening to the therapeutic benefits of reading and listening to stories.
- UAE records a 7% rise in conversations around reading: The UAE led the charge, with a 7% increase in social conversations around literature in 2020, higher than the global average of a 3% year-on-year increase. There were more than 73 million online mentions across the world in English and Arabic alone.
- Arabic mentions of reading and literature up 20%: Social conversations about books and literature in Arabic have increased by 20%, year-on-year, indicating heightened interest in reading in Arabic and reading about culturally relevant topics, situations and characters in both Arabic and English.
- Discussions about Arab authors soars: With the launch of Emirates Literature Foundation’s Kateb Maktub initiative, the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia in both Arabic and English have increased by more than 500% in less than two years and these articles about Arabic authors have been viewed 224 million times.
- Social and online mentions of independent publishing in UAE up 27%: Interest in independent publishing and self-publishing is flourishing. Between 2020 and 2021, public social media and online news mentions of independently published books, non-traditional publishing and independent bookstores rocketed 27% in the UAE, compared to an 18% increase globally.
- Powerful new communities emerge: Social media has been a game-changer in creating dynamic reader-writer communities with authors turning directly to their readers for inspiration for storylines, construction of plots and research as well as to thank readers and engage with fans.
The six emerging audiences driving cultural consumption:
The Mapper360® research also identified six powerful new audiences driving literature consumption and reshaping the literary scene in the MENA region. Representing a cross-section of English, Arabic and bilingual speakers the audiences are actively shaping what and how they and their peers read across the world.
- Cultural Khaled: Avid reader Khaled who represents 5% of the audiences shaping literature consumption works within the MENA region’s burgeoning cultural sector, and actively attends cultural events and festivals, which enriches and expands his interest in the arts and literary scene. Often found pursuing book fairs and hanging out in bookshops, Khaled is an aspiring author who hopes one day to make his mark on the publishing scene.
- Self-improver Shaimaa: Having re-discovered her love for reading during the pandemic, Shaimaa and her counterparts (who represent 18% of the total segmented audience) are driving an increased interest in audiobooks and self-improvement books. Business books and career development focused tomes, as well as publications focused on health, fitness and physical and mental wellbeing are some of Shaimaa’s other interests.
- Knowledgeable Nadim: Representing almost a quarter of the high-value audiences shaping the reading scene (24% of the segmented audience), Nadim and his peers enjoy reading books to unwind from their fast-paced life, as well as for career development. With a passion for science and technology, and the occasional thriller, Nadim reads in short bursts on a device, whilst using multiple screens. Nadim is seven times more likely to use social media networks such as LinkedIn, Medium and Reddit and is driving increased interest in science and tech books.
- Gen Z Zeina: Alongside her community, representing 7% of the total segmented audience, Zeina is leading the charge in purchasing physical books and driving backsales from established authors (often inspired by #BookTok), whilst also consuming YA (young adult) output from new emerging writers. Zeina aspires to make the world a better place and favours books from diverse voices as well as those which focus on the environment and sustainability.
- Summer Reader Sara: Whilst seemingly familiar to many, Summer Reader Sara (representing 28% of the segmented audience) has evolved since the onset of the pandemic. Books have become even more important to Sara as a respite from the challenges the world has faced and her demanding family life. Sara is driving book sales across devices (although these purchases often go unread). Community book clubs, book swap evenings with friends and online reading groups are of great importance to Sara.
- Next Gen Nemer: In his quest to understand the meaning of life, Nemer and his counterparts whilst representing just 2% of the total segmented audience, are a powerful influence on the consumption of purposeful books, philosophical novels and debuts by game-changing authors. Highly philosophical and open to new ideas, Nemer follows Bookstagrammers and BookTubers for recommendations as well as threads on Reddit or Buzzfeed.
Ahlam Bolooki, Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature commented: “We have seen first-hand how demand has grown for literature and literary conversations. This research reflects our view from the front line, but gives us a deeper understanding of where we are and who our audiences are. Whether you relate more to Next Gen Nemer or Summer reader Sara, we always make sure there is something that speaks to you at the Festival.
“Data like this helps us identify the gaps in the region’s literary ecosystem, and present programmes that ensure our industry has a solid foundation and continues to grow. Initiatives such as First Chapter: ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship and Kateb Maktub have been pioneering in the region and elevating regional literature to global audiences.”
Truda Spruyt Managing director, culture Four Communications, said “As we’ve seen in other markets, including the UK and the US, reading and listening to books is on the rise. Many people found solace in books during the pandemic and it is wonderful to see that engagement continuing.
A lot of time and investment has gone into promoting the joy of reading and the wealth of Arabic fiction, from initiatives such as the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature to prizes such as the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. All of this hard work seems to be paying off, particularly in the UAE. I find it fascinating to look at the specific reading audiences that have been identified in the report and to see how they are driving the conversations online as well as the all-important book sales!”
Andrea Gissdal, Head of Marketing and Communications, Emirates Literature Foundation, said “It is wonderful to see evidence for what we have long suspected: that the thirst for stories is growing in spite of all the distractions of modern life. Having these actionable insights is essential for developing an effective strategy. When you are as close to the subject as we are, you have a very good feeling for which way the wind is blowing, but that can never be a substitute for genuine data-led insights.”
Natalie Amos, Managing director lifestyle – Four MENA continued, “Global and regional trends within literature and reading are constantly changing and the industry is evolving at an exponential pace with new technologies and social platforms coming to the fore. In the region, we have observed accelerated shifts in consumer reading habits as well as emerging trends around the discussion of literature over the last two years, with the UAE in particular witnessing an intensified engagement with the spoken word. Identifying new trends and emerging audiences within the cultural landscape is vital for success in understanding and engaging with new audiences and building marketing communications campaigns which resonate.”
In order to identify the seismic shifts within the consumption of literature in the MENA region and to better understand the audiences who engage with literature festivals and cultural events, the Emirates Literature Foundation partnered with Four Communications to utilise its proprietary insights methodology, Mapper360® to deliver smart actionable insights which unveil new dynamics and opportunities within the literary scene.
To download a copy of the whitepaper ‘Reading between the lines: The new trends spurring literature creation and the audiences driving cultural consumption’, please visit: https://www.elfdubai.org/en/white-paper-read-between-the-lines
To listen to the podcast with Emirates Literature Foundation and Four Communications MENA discussing the whitepaper visit Boundless Book Club or Four Spoken Word and complete the survey to discover which type of reader you are.