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Arabic e-bookstore app launches in UAE

App combines e-bookstore with e-publishing and can currently be accessed from iPad

Arabic e-bookstore app launches in UAE
Flagship Projects has launched its e-book app globally. The app is designed to allow users to download, read and upload their own Arabic content.

Rufoof, an e-bookstore dedicated to providing Arabic content to smartphone and tablet users globally has officially launched in the UAE. The app, conceptualised and developed by Flagship Projects, allows users to download and read e-books on their iPads as well as publish their own content.

Rufoof is currently available on the Apple store for iPad, but will soon be available for iPhone and Android as well.

"We currently have over 4,500 titles, 90% of that is Arabic content and 80% of that Arabic content is free. The reason why we have free application and the majority of content is free is because we want to encourage the habit of reading on a technological device such as the iPad, right now," said Shadi Al Hassan, Flagship Project CEO and Founder.

Al Hassan said that he hopes the development of Rufoof will encourage Arabic people to read more and change the culture of the region to be more accepting of the written word.

"A book can be sold and distributed to numbers of over 50 million copies in the US, and Europe, over here we have very limited channels to achieve big numbers, though the audience is huge. One of the key reasons is that the audiences are not really interested in living with the book; it is part of the culture in fact. The good thing is that it is improving and people are returning back to reading," he said.

The Rufoof app is very similar to the way a Kindle or e-book reader works, allowing users to view content when offline, share content on Facebook or Twitter, check words in a dictionary and search for books on related topics or by author or title name. Users can also play ambient sounds in the background while reading such as sounds of the ocean or bird song, use different e-bookmarks to make their place and content can also be arranged into the way users want it on the shelves, for example by alphabetical order or genre.

Users can also change the theme or colour of the Rufoof digital bookshelves to suit their taste.

"We will be available for browser readers and desktop readers very soon, but the most important part is that we are not a website or an app installed on a device, we are a platform for whoever has content and wants to reach the local market or international world through our target audiences. For our regional audiences, we are multi-lingual and have content in Arabic and English because Arabs who live in this market are also English speakers, especially in education. We have Hamdan University's content in a special section at Rufoof, where students can read the curriculum and articles and books in English as well," said Al Hassan.

For the international market however, Rufoof is just targeting Arabic readers as Al Hassan said that Arabs can find all different content and different languages on other platforms, but when it comes to Arabic, Rufoof is their only channel for e-books.

"We currently have top-selling international magazines for the Arabic market, such as Forbes Middle East, which will cost Rufoof users $3.50 an issue, instead of $6 for the hard copy," said Al Hassan.

Rufoof is currently working on adding more magazines to the application, such as an Arabic version of National Geographic, but currently has a wealth of magazines from the government sector, such as editions from the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Police, Hamdan University and the Judicial Department of Abu Dhabi; the UAE Ministry of Education has their entire curriculum on Rufoof.

All material on Rufoof will have to comply with UAE content regulations and anything that is not in line with the guidelines will be censored.

Rufoof has seen 75,000 downloads globally since its soft launch at Gitex 2011, and so far the top users are Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE and in third place is the US.

To enhance their revenue stream, Rufoof is planning to partner with educational institutions, publishers and governments, who can pay to book virtual space on Rufoof's virtual bookshelves.

Rufoof is also considering developing its own e-book readers for the educational sector in the region.

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