Indigenous Publishing Market Profile of Bahrain

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Book publishing is a huge worldwide market today. It is chiefly controlled by the number of readers, their preferences, and professional guidelines, especially for schools and institutional buyers. The market is also driven by different country’s emphasis on education, rate of enrollment in schools, number of professionals in the market, and rate of readership (Cornell University Library, 2010). The industry has been growing at a very fast rate but faces many challenges. The arrival of information technology means that publishers have to ensure their work is available electronically, a shift that has been costly for many. Consumer preferences are constantly changing, making it hard for published materials to stay relevant for a long time in the market. Despite the challenges, the industry remains enthusiastic while different market fundamentals promise a bright future for publishers.

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The Kingdom of Bahrain, or simply Bahrain, is a small island country located in the Persian Gulf (Central Intelligence Agency, 2010). The country is mainly known for its oil business and its economy is ranked as one of the fastest-growing in the Arab region. The country, however, takes education seriously and as a result of a good economy, many of its new industries are growing fast. One of the developing industries is publishing. Many publishing companies in Bahrain started as a result of increased demand for corporate brochures. As many companies in the areas grew from small scale to large scale, and some to global corporations, demand for print material and advertising campaigns motivated investments in the publishing industry.

Today, many publishing companies have come up in the region and are doing much more than printing brochures. They produce a synopsis for publications, liaise with other publishers all over the world to ensure publishing quality is met, conduct advertisements and exhibitions for their published work, and work with other artists in photography and other creative works to improve the industry (The International Institute of Research, 2005). Publishing companies are largely benefiting from business opportunities in Qatar, the gulf construction industry, the gulf oil and gas industry, and the tourism industry in the region, which is growing at a dramatic rate. The industry has also benefited from the growing number of schools and colleges in the Gulf region, which increases demands for books and encourages a culture of reading. Publishing is done in Arabic, which is the official language of Bahrain but much of it is also done in English since its widely used and not all publications are for the local market.


Al-Hilal publishers have been publishing since 1973. In a year, the publishers handle more than 1,400 periodicals from a total of 18 countries, many in the Arab region (ITP Publishing group, 2010). It has offices in London, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE. Another publisher in the country is an Arabian magazine, well known for magazine publishing. It deals with Bahrain confidential, car buyers, and organizational magazines. “Fanar Publishing is among the biggest publishers in the region, and it is well know for traveler magazines, Arabic agricultural directories and most of the Arab world business magazines” (ITP Publishing group, 2010). Scientia Bonnensis Publishing Company is the biggest publisher of academic publications in the region (ITP Publishing group, 2010). It is an international publisher with a presence in USA and Germany as well.

The country has other small publishers, mainly specialized in magazines. Being neighbors to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the country enjoys huge benefits from the many economic activities going on in these countries. The Arab region has attracted so much attention in the past over their booming economies and levels of developments happening in the countries. The construction business is at its best while the oil industry is flourishing. As a result, business journals have a big market in the area and enjoy a large clientele. Small and big publishers in Bahrain benefit from such opportunities by printing millions of copies of business journals and magazines every year.

Market size

Bahrain has a population of 1,243,000 people (Zahlan, 2010). 708, 781 of them are Bahrainis and the rest are immigrants. According to the National Youth Strategy Report, Bahrain has the highest levels of literacy in the Arab world. The country has a 88% literacy rate, the best in the Arab region and among the best in the world. As a result, the locals make a good market for publishers. The country ensures that each student in school is provided with books by the state. As a result, both the rich and poor have access to books, a trend that proves very beneficial to publishers. Private schools and colleges are also required by the law to ensure that they are well equipped with the relevant resources such as books, making it easier for publishers to sell books to the private schools (Careers Organization, 2010).

The country has over ten universities and has other small colleges and institutions. The University of Bahrain, King Abdulaziz University College of Health Sciences, University College of Bahrain, and Ahlia University are the biggest. Most of the universities, however, lack their publishing services and rely on their local publishers for all their print material. Other than local students, the universities attract foreign students from Arabic countries, increasing the number of clientele for locally printed material. It is approximated that at any particular time, Bahrain has over 30,000 students in its schools.

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Bahrain publishers release an average of 580 new books every year while the number of periodicals and other reading materials is over 10,000 in a year. Compared to the country’s small population, these numbers are considered above average. Social sciences lead in the number of published books, general topics follow, literature books are next followed by applied science, while history and geography follow. Religious books are next and are considered a big part of Bahrain publishing industry (UNESCO, 2009)

Distribution system

Bahrain publishers mostly rely on bookstores and books centers to distribute their material. The distributors have large networks of bookstores in strategic locations such as airports and five-star hotels. Some have a presence in major tourism and business cities in the world, giving the Bahrain publishers a global market. They hold book fairs in different countries to help attract attention to Bahrain’s published materials.

For the foreign market, Amazon has been very instrumental in helping distribute books. The site which is accessible globally, allows shoppers to search and pay for books online. Books are then sent to them by Amazon or can be downloaded from the internet. Many publishers and writers in Bahrain have ensured that their products are available on Amazon and their customers in any part of the world can access them. Bookshops also do ship products to their customers abroad, by using Aramex and DHL postage, which operate in almost every part of the world. As a result of such business systems, Bahrain writers and publishers can access the global markets as well as the benefits that come with it.

The Alliance Francaise de Bahrain has its resource center and library in Isa town, one of the biggest towns in Bahrain. Its libraries have over 5,000 books from both local and international publishers, making it easy for readers to access books. As a measure to promote local readership and promote local publishers, most bookstores and libraries stock more locally published books. The center also has video libraries electronic books services to allow readers to access books from the internet (Al-Hawaj, Wajeeh, and Twizell, 2008). The British Council has a Library and a multimedia center to give more accessibility and availability of English books and materials. The center allows readers to borrow the resources or read them from the center, depending on one’s membership status.

Another important center for books distribution and promotion is the Manama public library. It is situated in Manama and stocks both English and Arabic books. The library has for a long time been a good avenue for writers and publishers to promote their work since it enjoys a large number of visitors. The Bab Al Bahrain is a well-known books store for its specialization in religious books and materials. It is stocked with Arabic religious books and enjoys a huge clientele from various religious organizations.

Main distributors

Al-Hilal Corporation is the only big books distributor, distributing publications to over 17 countries abroad. The distributor has a large network of bookstores with over twelve bookstores in strategic locations such as airports and five-star hotels. It has a presence in major tourism and business cities in the world, giving the Bahrain publishers a global market. It also holds book fairs in different countries to help attract attention to Bahrain’s published materials.

Jamal Bookstores is the biggest bookstore chain in Bahrain with a shop in almost every town in the country (Shargawi, 2008). It has over ten bookstores in the country and has stores in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arabs Emirates, and many other countries in the Arab world. It has strategic locations such as shops in the country’s biggest shopping malls. Virgin City Center Book is another key distribution point for many publishers. Other major bookstores in the country include Budaiya Bookcase and Family Bookshop among others.

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Pricing is based on what’s written in a book and the type of contract signed between the author and the publisher. It is also based on markets aimed at by the product. Agents have a big influence on pricing and marketing too. Publishing standards are relevant when pricing any material, the category in which the book lies, and the quality of the work. The mode of access has a big influence on pricing since printed material cannot cost the same as material accessed from the internet. The uniqueness of a topic is very relevant when pricing a product since it determines the level of competition a product will face in the market.

Marketing and promotion

The annual book fair event has become a very significant part of the publishing industry in Bahrain (Bahrain International Exhibition Center, 2010). It is a time when readers and writers are brought together as well as market analysts to evaluate progress and trends in the market. This year, the country held its 14th Book Fair or exhibition. The cultural and national heritage center has become famous today for its annual book and art exhibitions, under the patronage of the country’s royal highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa (Bahrain International Exhibition Center, 2010). This year’s exhibition was held in March as it is tradition, a season in which the number of tourists is high.

“During these exhibitions, news Agencies are able to interview writers and publishing houses, and explore their views on the market” (Bahrain International Exhibition Center, 2010). The exhibition is considered one of the most organized book fairs in the world and attracts a large number of readers and writers from all over the world. The exhibition covers a big area due to participation by a large number of Arab publishers. It provides a diverse selection of academic, social, children, and religious books among many other categories to satisfy readers from all ages, from different backgrounds, and with different reading interests. Such promotional campaigns give readers a chance to quench their thirst by moving freely from one publisher to the other and exploring their reading interests.

The Red House Marketing Bahrain, is a company specialized in books marketing, advertising, public relations, brand planning, and events management (Creative Media Applications, 2009). The company is responsible for marketing all the publishers both locally and internationally. By partnering with the government and other non-governmental organizations, the company can reach not only the local but the international markets. Even though Bahrain has a small population, it enjoys over 1 million tourists each year, increasing the size of the country’s market (The Stanhope Center for Communications Policy Research, 2008). The company does marketing through different avenues and promotional campaigns. One of them is taking advantage of international events and sporting events to create awareness about Bahrain writers and publishers. The Bahrain Formula One sporting circuit is one such event. It is among the many other activities which attract a large number of tourists in the country. At such times, the company can print out brochures and distribute them to locals and visitors. It can also hold talks about different books and organize selling events.

Use of web for marketing

The internet has been a big avenue for publishers and writers to promote their books. Through companies such as Red House Marketing, different authors and publishers have websites where they can reach both local and global markets. By including photos, links, book reviews, and book covers, readers can view products from their favorite publishing houses and even purchase them online. Publishers and promoters also use other traditional methods of advertising such as newspapers, radio, and even television to update readers on new products in the market.

Amazon has been very instrumental in helping distribute books. The site which is accessible globally, allows shoppers to search and pay for books online. Books are then sent to them by Amazon or can be downloaded from the internet. Many publishers and writers in Bahrain have ensured that their products are available on Amazon and their customers in any part of the world can access them


Bahrain’s publishing industry faces major competition from international publishers. Europe and the United States seem to be the biggest competitors as evident by the number of books they export to Bahrain. Readers’ preferences have been largely influenced by tourists and immigrants to adopt more English content in their reading culture (Maisel, 2009). The trend is also attributed to the fact that the country has a more conservative writing culture due to religious beliefs. As a result, Bahrain writers tend to focus on more conservative topics such as religion, culture, business, and art, topics that the young readers don’t find exciting. As a result, the young readers are more open to foreign workers, mostly published in foreign countries (USA International Trade Library, 2009).

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Impact of technology

Like every other country, Bahrain’s publishing industry has largely benefited from growing printing and distributing technologies. The results are evident by improved public visual images, creative courses, exhibition works, and reactions from external clients (Institute of Engineering and Technology, 2010). The internet has made it possible for publishers to market, sell and distribute books easily and at a reduced cost. The industry has benefited from sites such as amazon, which have made it possible to reach a bigger global market. Today, publishers in Bahrain can order publishing materials from any part of the world easily and can send their products to the world easily.

Business travelers to Bahrain make a big percentage of the customers. Through e-books and different downloading sites, visiting entrepreneurs can access practical information from books, magazines, and periodicals available on the internet. Such technology has seen sales increase dramatically and markets expand. Readers have also benefited from technology. It is now possible for them to read books online without having to purchase them. It is also possible for a reader to access a book from any part of the world (Association for Programmed Learning, 2008).

New inventions in the publishing world have made it possible to do mass printing, minimize the cost of producing books, and increase volumes. The government and other organizations can reach more people with different messages as a result of bulk printing. It has become much easier to get feedback from readers through the net and it is easier for publishers to compare their work and market with others on the globe. Consultation has become easier as a result of more efficient communication resulting from better technologies.

Use of technology in teaching and learning

Learning has also benefited largely due to modernized publishing and access to learning materials (The International Institute of Research, 2005). The country has adopted new teaching techniques such as the use of computers to maximize on availability of electronic information. Most universities in Bahrain use computers in class and they can easily access books and other materials as they learn. Publishers ensure that school books are easily accessible and affordable on the internet to allow students to utilize them easily. There is also a notable trend where students can write essays on and sell them on the internet through various publishers (Al-Maskati and Faiga, 2008).

Export sales

Bahrain exports its publications to countries all over the world. Its biggest market, however, is the gulf region and the Arabic countries. Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and Oman are the country’s biggest importers of books, magazines, periodicals, and other reading material. Europe and American countries make a good market for business publications, perhaps as a result of a large number of entrepreneurs with business interests in the country. Cultural books and works of art also do well in Europe and other parts of the world with many art lovers such as India.

Rights issues and legislation

Unlike many other countries, Bahrain has had very few cases regarding illegal practices in its publishing industry (The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 2010). Bahrain authors advocacy organization protects authors against unscrupulous publishers and helps them sign the right contracts with publishers. It also helps different people in the process of negotiating royalties. The country has made it easy for writers and publishers to patent their work by having very affordable patent costs. The law is very clear on publishing contract terms and royalties. As a result of high religious standards in the country, business ethics play an important role in many industries.

Intellectual property laws prohibit publishers from using a writer’s work to their advantage (Amnesty International, 2010). Publishers and users are required to abide by different rules and regulations put in place by e-books companies. In 2002, the county adopted a new constitution that clearly outlines publication laws. The law allows freedom of expression, making it possible for the publishing industry to have a wider scope of topics they publish on (Amnesty International, 2010).


In this year’s book exhibition, “the National Center for Translation described Bahrainis as “people who are well-read and culturally and intellectually engrossed in reading on various levels” (Bahrain International Exhibition Center, 2010). Renowned writers in the country include Qassim Haddad, Amina Al Fardan, Hassan bu Hassan, and Ahmed Bilal among others. The country, with such a small population, enjoys a good readership giving publishers a good local market. Apart from the local market, Bahrain receives over 1 million visitors every year, the majority of who may buy different publications about the country’s culture and practices.

Business travelers in Bahrain are many and make a good clientele for business publications. The country also exports different books and publications to different parts of the world, made easier by the use of technology. Their yearly book exhibition has been very influential in selling writers and publishers to both the local and foreign markets. The government has very little influence on what is published but several rules and regulations have put restrictions on materials considered a threat to peaceful co-existence. Their emphasis on education has been influential in the industry’s growth and with such high literacy levels, Bahrain’s publishing industry has a bright future ahead.

Reference list

Al-Hawaj, A.Y. Wajeeh, E. and Twizell, E.H., 2008. Higher education in the twenty-first century: Issues and Challenges: Proceedings of the international conference, Ahlia University, Kingdom of Bahrain,2007. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Web.

Al-Maskati, A.A. and Faiga, S.A., 2008. Education in Bahrain: Development and innovation. Bahrain: Ministry of Education, Unit of Documentation. Web.

Amnesty International, 2010. Bahrain: Freedom of expression must be guaranteed. Web.

Association for Programmed Learning, 2008. Programmed learning and educational technology. Bahrain: Association for Programmed Learning. Web.

Bahrain International Exhibition Center, 2010. Publishing houses praise the organization of exhibitions. Web.

Careers Organization, 2010. Bahrain Online education, online degree, and distance learning. Web.

Central Intelligence Agency, 2010. World fact-book. Web.

Cornell University Library, 2010. Critically analyzing books and information sources. Web.

Creative Media Applications, 2009. Bahrain, Cyprus, and Egypt publishing markets. Westport, Conn Greenwood Press. Web.

Institute of Engineering and Technology, 2010. IET Bahrain network. Web.

ITP Publishing Group, 2010. ITP to launch Grazia Bahrain. Web.

Maisel, S., 2009. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States Today. Westport, Conn Greenwood Press. Web.

Shargawi, A.A. 2008. Bahrain writers: Ali Al Jallawi, Rashid Al Marikhi, Ebrahim Al-Arrayedh, and Tarafa. New York: Routledge. Web.

The Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity, 2010. The guiding principles of the right of freedom and Association in the Arab world. Web.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 2010. Bahrain: In the waged war against freedom of expression: Torture, blocking, and prohibition of publication. Web.

The International Institute of Research, 2005. Faculty opinion towards introducing e-learning at the University of Bahrain. Web.

The Stanhope Center for Communications Policy Research, 2008. Study of Media Laws and Policies for the Middle East and the Maghreb. Web.

UNESCO, 2009. Asia book production. UNESCO Institute of Statistics. Web.

USA International Trade Library, 2009. Directory of publications and broadcast media. Farmington Hills: Gale Groups. Web.

Zahlan, R., 2010. The making of the modern gulf states Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman. Reading: Ithaca Press. Web.

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