(MENAFN- Jordan Times) AMMAN — Reading is a thirst that only increases when you quench it: this could be the slogan of the recently launched Ebook mobile app by Abjjad, an online Arabic books website founded by Eman Hylooz five years ago.
'I am a bookworm. I love reading and I always wanted to share the beauty of Arabic books,' the 33-year-old Jordanian told The Jordan Times in an interview on Sunday.
With the advancement of technology and the multiplication of electronic devices, people reading books on phones, tablets and laptops has become a daily occurrence worldwide.
However, while people have an easy and instant access to millions of books on digital platforms, the lack of a proper online database for Arabic books dawned on Hylooz.
She recalled: 'I was hearing a lot: there is no readership in the Arab world, there are no Arabic books. But I know that there is actually a lot of passionate readers who would love to socialise around their reading experience.'
She used her background in computer science and years of experience in software development to establish the website Abjjad, with the aim of filling this literary gap and helping avid Arab readers to access their daily dose of prose and poetry.
An equivalent of the English website 'Goodreads', Abjjad offers Internet users the chance to browse through an online catalogue of over 160,000 books by Arab and international authors that encompass a wide variety of topics such as fiction, politics, psychology, religion, self-help, among others.
The 450,000 registered users also get to review the books and authors and share their experience through comments and ratings with other book enthusiasts worldwide.
Every month, more than 36,000 book-related posts are shared on the site,with writers engaging in conversations through over 5,000 comments, the founder of Abjjad said.
After five years of online success, the team decided to launch a mobile app allowing Arab readers access to their favourite books anytime, anywhere. 'In the past five years, I could feel that users were being frustrated by reading nice reviews and getting recommendations from their followers, but being unable to find the book to acquire,' Hylooz explained, noting that 'it then made sense to start with eBooks'.
'This app introduces a revolution in the world of Arabic reading while preserving the rights of the publisher, as the 2,000 ebooks we have uploaded have already been downloaded 280,000 times on the application over the past three months,' the young woman said.
Hylooz's love for literature goes beyond the passion for reading; she also seeks to preserve the vitality of the industry by combating the illegal downloading of books that scraps publishers and authors from their revenues.
'By signing partnerships with the leading publishing houses in the Arab world, we ensure that they are not killed by the pirating of books that spread dangerously,' she explained, adding that, while these publishers were reluctant to the jump into the digital world, they are now fully on board.
'The problem with Arabic books is that they are not a priority for global companies like Google, Amazon or Kindle; their marketing strategy is mostly focused on the English reading community,' the entrepreneur highlighted.
However, the launch of the app comes at the time when the number of Internet subscribers in the Kingdom amounts to 8.7 million, and a total of 160 million around the Arab world, most of which are mobile broadband, according to official figures.
'We are the generation that is witnessing the change to the digital world and we need to take it upon ourselves to help publishers penetrate this huge market that has been left behind by global companies,' she stressed.
For Hylooz, Abjjad has gone beyond a mere readers' platform: it has turned into a social and intellectual one. 'The content that is produced by Abjjad's readers community is one of the most important sources for finding the best books. The users look for recommendations from other readers, interact with them over recent activities, opinions and quotations,' she noted.
On criticisms about the loss of authenticity in reading, Hylooz responded: 'The app does not take away the 'pleasure of reading a paper book', as everything was designed to give the reader a real-life reading sensation.'
'We actually raise the quality of reading, shifting away from the poor level of pirated Arabic books pdfs currently on the market,' she concluded.
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