After years of repression and war, publishers in Iraq and Afghanistan say they are looking positively to the future as they try to satisfy what they believe is a pent-up thirst for knowledge.
It remains a rocky road ahead: both nations dogged by rampant instability, but also by a lack or ineffectiveness of basic amenities, outdated technology and chaotic distribution.
Add warlords to the frame in Afghanistan, remnants of the old regimes there and in Iraq, and the future could look too uncertain to bother about books.
But in a forum at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest in the world, Iraqi and Afghan publishers and writers all noted a desire to learn, to read and to educate that was crying out to be met.
"People are thirsty for knowledge," said Shah Muhammad Rais, a publisher in Baghdad.
"There is a pent-up demand for knowledge. People want to learn about other countries. They have enormous expectations," Rais said.
Afghanistan suffered arguably more than Iraq.
Communist literature was imposed by its former Soviet occupiers. Later came the hardline Islamic Taliban militia, who doubled the repression.
Any book with a picture of a living being was banned for religious reasons, recalled Ibrahim al-Rajab, a Kabul publisher.
Girls could not be educated. Boys could, but only under Taliban rules.
With the Taliban ousted in late 2001 the situation has improved radically.
Some 28 million books have been printed for Afghan schools, double that amount will follow next year, said Abdel Quayam Wafa, head of an Afghan organisation that publishes books, magazines and journals.
He said some 250 publications were available in Kabul.
"Now, the media can talk about blunders by ministers," he said.
There remained difficulties -- warlords controlling the provinces or even, worse, Taliban remnants, decrepit presses, poor roads bedevilling distribution -- but the boost given to publishing "is higher than for any other industry."
Nobody could stop the education of all children, he said.
"I know families who have no food for themselves, but they send their children to school," he said.
Iraq did not experience the same level of cultural repression, although it was still shaped and dogged by Saddam Hussein.
But like in Afghanistan, his ouster by US-led forces earlier this year has also sparked a publishing revival.
Khalid al-Maaly, an Iraqi-born publisher, said he was shifting his business from Lebanon to Iraq.
"What Iraq needs is reconstruction. But the people do not just need bread, we think books are among the most important things Iraq needs."
Rais said that "freedom is the condition for further development," despite the tough times as US forces struggle to curb unrest.
Hala Fattah, an Iraqi historian now based in Amman, said insecurity was the biggest problem facing publishing.
Coupled with that uncertainty were the lack of amenities such as a regular power supply -- a problem equally facing Afghanistan, along with a shortage of newsprint, said Quayam Wafa -- and an unstable currency.
"We need to start on the basics," she told the discussion forum.
Betool Khedairi, a writer of Iraqi-Scottish parentage now living in Amman, said now was the time to publish in Iraq despite the "bumpy journey."
Khedairi, author of the bestselling A Sky So Close, said she had detected a growing trend of Iraqis using the Internet to broaden their knowledge.