Author: Ruba ObeidSun, 2017-12-17 17:34ID: 1513548106675562300
JEDDAH: Manar Saud Al-Omayri, a young Saudi woman and executive director of Dhad, started the project because of her appreciation of her Arab identity, which is mainly represented through language, and she intends to promote a reading culture in society.
Considered the Arabic version of “Audible,” Dhad is a publishing house that produces fiction and non-fiction audiobooks in standard Arabic, and in a voice that applies to the “character of the book,” in a way that makes the listener excited and enthusiastic.
“I personally do not read in Arabic, and I felt that I needed to strengthen my Arabic as many of people in our generation who became more familiar with English than their mother language. But reading a printed book needs a certain environment ready for you in order to read, while audiobooks can be easily reachable and they are time investing because you can listen to them anywhere and at any time,” Al-Omayri said.
“We started in 2014. Our services were offered as business to business only, as we worked with companies which needed our services for their employees. We found that e-commerce in Saudi Arabia was not ready in 2014 to launch an app, because people were still not convinced about online products in Saudi Arabia. However, in 2016 we started publicizing our services when we found the market was ready.”
Al-Omayri said: “When we offer a good-quality product, people will realize that the product is worth paying for.”
Since Dhad was open to the public in 2016, it has achieved tremendous success. Some books were purchased more than 10,000 times, and that rarely happens for printed books. Free books exceeded more than 200,000 downloads.
“Our customers are mostly from Saudi Arabia, then come the Gulf countries, Egypt and North Africa, and Jordan from the Middle East. We also have clients in America, Argentina, Malaysia, and Indonesia. We actually have a diverse audience from areas we did not expect to reach,” Al-Omayri said. Customers in non-Arab countries are from Arab diasporas, students studying abroad, and Arabic language learners who want to know more about Arab literature, modern and classic.”
Dhad’s goal is to make reading easy, entertaining, and exciting by offering audio books that are produced in a way to attract the listeners’ attention. Al-Omayri and her team of seven members work on this by providing an immersive listening experience. “That happens by making the choice of the voice-over actor a very detailed process. The voice should apply to the book’s category, content, and the listeners’ expectations. That is how the audiobook can interact with our imagination,” she said.
The books are easily accessible through smartphone apps, which are available for both Android and iOS devices. It is specially designed to make the listening experience easy and comfortable.
The prices are governed by the book’s value and cost, which is usually 10 to 15 percent cheaper than the printed version of the book; the highest price of a Dhad audiobook is SR30 ($8).
The choice of the books is based on the book’s value, level of language, entertainment content, and the listeners’ preference. Dhad books are not only for adults, but also children. “We now have more than 200 recorded books, and we offer a few new books every month,” Al-Omayri added.
Dhad has voice-over actors from different Arab regions; they have people recording for them from Gaza, Iraq, Bahrain, the UAE, and also different areas in the Kingdom. They now have a total of 80 voices.
People can participate in building the Dhad library by registering online, and they can record in Dhad studios or in their home-based studio.
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