Qualibooks director Christopher de BeerThe Qualibooks Group is looking to bring the fun back to reading with its online platform, kibooks.online.

A fully online platform, kibooks.online provides children with access to around 8 000 books that they can read anywhere and at any time, says Christopher de Beer, a director at the Qualibooks Group.

“At the Qualibooks Group, our goal is to develop a reading habit among our young children, not only by creating physical library spaces, but also by enabling them to access digital library environments,” says De Beer.

Available via the kibooks.online website or a mobile app, the platform provides children with unrestricted access to books in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages. The books available on kibooks.online aren’t limited to certain ‘types’ of content and include a broad range of titles – from fiction to non-fiction.

“To clarify, kibooks.online is not a learning tool. It is not a place where that children can go to learn how to read. It’s essentially an online entertainment platform that makes a broad range of reading material available to children who want to read.”

kibooks.online was initially targeted at schools, offering a cost-effective way for their libraries to give learners access to reading material online. But it is now also available to the public at large, who want to introduce their children to a healthy digital habit, and/or expand their home libraries.

According to de Beer, the kibooks.online business model is a major differentiator.

“We are a content curator, as opposed to a content aggregator. Other platforms offer free subscriptions and then if you want to read something you pay per book,” he explains.

These offerings usually have restrictions around how long you can access the book for, or there are library-like virtual lending policies, which mean that two users can’t read the same book, at the same time.

“We’ve embraced a model, like your major streaming services like Netflix. With kibooks.online, you pay an annual subscription fee and all the content on the platform is available without any time or usage restrictions. And as we add more books, those will also be available to you at no extra charge.”

To date, over 400 000 books have been accessed via the platform, with close to 6 million pages read over around 28 000 reading hours.

From a user experience perspective, it was key that the experience made it feel like users were reading a regular book, de Beer notes. “We spent a lot of time and put in a lot of effort converting the books from a PDF into a digital reading format, so that the experience is as true to real life as possible.”

Additionally, it was also important that the process of accessing and browsing kibooks.online titles was child friendly and simple to use. “Once you’ve subscribed, it just takes three steps – login, search, read. It’s as simple as that,” de Beer says.

“When we look at the stats coming out of kibooks.online so far, what we see is that most of the activity on the platform is happening in the afternoons after school and on weekends, which is exactly what we want. To foster a culture of reading and to build habits, we need to encourage children to read in their own time and at their own pace and this is exactly what we are trying to do.”

Acknowledging that the numbers paint a terrible picture of how our country is doing from a literacy perspective, de Beer says we need to change the narrative around reading. “When we focus too much on the numbers, we forget that if we want to get kids to read, we need to make it fun. At kibooks.online, the dream is for this platform, and reading, to be seen as a leisure activity, much like watching sport of playing games online.”

Source: IT Online