Thanks to NATIVE’s new Mxit app, bookly, author Fiona Snyckers can now launch her book to an audience of 7.3 million monthly active users and do it three weeks before the real-world launch in bookstores.
bookly is the most sophisticated e-reader app available on the Mxit platform. NATIVE began developing the app in early 2013, and was eager to bring suitable partners on board as quickly as possible. Publishers Random House Struik and Modjaji Books stepped up as partners creating an appropriate focus on serialised South African novels.
NATIVE’s Head of Inventions, Levon Rivers, explains how it all works. “bookly creates a virtual library on a cell phone, allowing users to browse books by name, author or genre. It has all the features of other electronic readers on more advanced devices. It saves your progress after each session, and you can create your own virtual bookshelf of favourite reads.”
While offering a wide variety of books is important, Rivers is adamant that bookly will appeal to educators more directly by providing access to books that pertain to the school syllabus. “From an education viewpoint, we are starting with the classics and planning to extend to setworks and textbooks in the future,” he explains. “The most effective way to address South Africa’s poor literacy rates is to ensure that school children have access to books. Imagine every child had their own library on their phone? bookly will elevate general reading and literacy rates in South Africa,” says Rivers. “It is the cheapest and most accessible way to get books. We’ve also added a layer of gamification to encourage reading amongst the youth.”
Colleen Higgs of Modjaji Books said it was an easy decision supporting the bookly app. “We are thrilled to join Mxit via bookly,” she said. “It’s a new way to read and be read.”
While most people know Mxit as a chat and mobile gaming platform, it now affords users with ordinary feature phones access to a vast library and the opportunity to read books with ease anywhere, at any time – all they need is a cell phone and some airtime. Also, by utilising open source platforms such as Project Gutenberg, the list of available books is growing by the minute.
“We wanted to create an app that could accommodate unlimited reading material,” says Rivers. “At NATIVE we create work that has a meaningful impact on people’s lives and we are very much invested in South Africa’s future. We feel that smart phone functionality shouldn’t be limited to the rich, especially when such technology could influence the lives of millions of people,” he says.
This is also particularly true in a country where e-readers and tablets remain a privilege of the elite few. In this context, NATIVE has found a way for South Africans to access hundreds of books, be the first to sample a novel by an established author and exercise a basic human right – the right to read.