With the Cairo Book Fair wrapping up this week–amidst controversy, as journalists were arrested for possessing cameras and video equipment to cover the event–one exciting launch took place with critical support from Vodafone Egypt. The first dedicated Arab ebookstore, Kotobi.com, launched from their stage at the fair, bringing several hundred Arab titles from nearly forty publishers to digital devices.
According to the Kotobi website (translated), “Statistics show that readership levels in the Arab World are significantly lower than those among other world populations. And because we believe that reading is a key ingredient for the development of any nation, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to play a role in supporting the Arabic reading ecosystem to the benefit of raising readership levels in the Arabic language.”
A number of concerned stakeholders from throughout the Arab nations joined Vodafone Egypt to bring the ebookstore to fruition, with many seeing this initiative as a way to combat the alarming illiteracy rates mentioned on the site. More importantly, Kotobi goes on to hint at a possible self-publishing platform, going so far as to mention the “barriers to publication” that keep authors, publishers, and readers from thriving through book development.
“Kotobi’s digital technology removes the barriers to publishing for authors and publishers alike; and creates an innovative avenue for readers to access the biggest variety of Arabic publications at the convenience of their home: no need to travel a distance to find the nearest bookshop; and no need to wait until the next print of a book is out; and best of all, you can buy through your credit card anywhere in the world, or through your mobile phone in Egypt. And as you buy your collection of books, you needn’t worry about carrying it around, because Kotobi’s mobile app allows you to walk around with your library: all on your mobile phone or tablet.”
So far, Kotobi offers ebooks, periodicals, and a wide variety of free titles, including translations of well-known classics from foreign authors like Aldous Huxley and Charles Dickens.