Dhad, audio books to promote the Arabic language

Manar Alomayria young Saudi entrepreneur, came full of life and confidence to the last Viva Tech Show to present her literary revolution, Audiobooks Dhad. The start-up she founded in Jeddah has been shaping since 2014 the future of the arabic book industry. Her undeniable professionalism and seriousness could not contain her overflowing and contagious enthusiasm which she uses to defend her cause in front of the camera.

Promote Arabic language and literature in the world

Manar Alomayri’s mission is promote their mother tongue through literature. She claims her culture and the means to spread it, through Dhad. It is the symbol of this fight for the recognition of the Arab identity, which passes above all by the language. The start-up is actually the Arabic version of AudibleAmerican company created in 1995 and sold to Amazon in 2008. Like the download site, the young Saudi company is both a publishing house and an application providing audio books with educational content, whether fictional or non-fictional, to be listened to on all types of devices.

Manar Alomayri, overflowing with enthusiasm at the Viva Tech Show

Make books more accessible across the region

The Arab world is in fact notorious for not being the nation or population that reads the most. And it’s not because they’re not interested in reading, but because it’s really hard to get a book in the Arab world., said Manar with indignation and solemnity. “Public libraries are also not very common in the Arab world, even in Saudi Arabia”. Worse, she said it would be impossible to even find a book you want.

Indeed, very few books are printed, translated and published in Arabic, either in the Middle East or in the rest of the world, where Arabic-speaking readers have get used to reading in a foreign language. Today, of the 17 books read by the MENA population, on average per year, at least 6 are in foreign languages, according to a report by Knowledge4All.

A disruptive start-up to endorse the evolution of lifestyles

In addition to difficulties in accessing bookstraditional reading has become less and less compatible with our way of life. And to affirm it is not something blasphemous. The moments of immobility, calm and idleness that it requires have almost disappeared from our modern lifestyles, where movement and incessant activity are preponderant. “Young people under 30 in the Arab world are increasing, especially in Saudi Arabia where they are more than 70%. They want something quick to complement their fast and busy lifestyle. And also they want something on the go”.

This is why Manar has completely redesigned the way we read. His solution: enriched audio books. Dhad was therefore thought of as a practical multi-device application, designed to offer an immersive and interactive experience that captivates the listener’s attention without restricting their imagination. Dhad works closely with well-known actors and personalities from the Middle East. Together, they work on the voices down to the smallest detail to remain faithful to the spirit and universe of the book while generating emulation in the listener.

An astonishing entrepreneurial lucidity

If today his success and his satisfaction contaminate his frank smile, it is because Dhad humbly bided his time. In 2014, Manar and his team decided to be patient and wait for the Saudi market to mature before actually launching the application to the general public. At that time, people were very suspicious of e-commerce. The start-up took the opportunity to work on its BtoB partnerships, the first milestone in its success, while promoting audio book formats. Indeed, people were reluctant to this new form of reading. “We met people who did not accept to listen to a book, because they thought it was not the same thing as reading a book“, recalls Manar.

In 2016, Manar knew it was the right time. The market and mentalities had evolved and people had then understood that “it’s a book whether it’s audio or print or an e-book, in the end it’s the same content, it’s the same thing but you just have another format another way of receiving this kind of content”. And she’s right, the success is resounding, some books are bought more than 10,000 times, a figure never reached with printed books. It even goes up to 200,000 downloads for a few free books.