London’s FutureBook Innovation Awards recognises bookly as Best Start-up app

Yesterday (21 November) bookly, a Mxit e-reader app created by NATIVE VML, received the prestigious Best Start-up award at the annual FutureBook Innovation Awards in London.

Over 220 entries were received from 12 different countries for the awards, now in their third year.

Judges felt bookly’s positive message of encouraging reading across Africa, backed by a realistic business plan, made it the stand-out choice.

Jason Xenopoulos, CEO of NATIVE VML, adds that NATIVE VML strives to create purpose-driven work that has a meaningful impact on people’s lives and that bookly is a brilliant example of this. “We feel that smart phone functionality shouldn’t be limited to a privileged few, especially when such technology could influence the lives of millions of people on the African continent. We are pleased that our intentions have been recognised through this award.”

bookly is the most sophisticated e-reader ever developed for Mxit; successfully bringing smartphone functionality to the feature phone. It was author Fiona Snyckers chosen platform to launch her novel Team Trinity to an audience of 7.3 million monthly active users, three weeks before the real-world launch in bookstores. Following the launch, publishers Random House Struik and Modjaji Books got on board as partners to create an appropriate focus of serialised South African novels. Since then Black Letter Media, Wordsmack, Cambridge University Press, and a number of freelance authors have joined the platform.

Features on bookly include:

  • A library: users can easily browse a virtual library of books searching by genre, author etc.
  • A bookshelf: users can pick books from the library to add to their bookshelf. The user’s progress is automatically saved.
  • Reader books: Page markers are available to store content and a Like/Dislike function can be used to create a community book rating.
  • Gamification: users can enjoy a Leader list showing who is reading the most and badges are awarded for reading certain authors or genres.

NATIVE VML has big plans for bookly which include developing the app for other feature phone platforms; creating a bookly School; developing content in other South African languages; and creating a self-publishing story-telling platform, among others. “We want to offer the largest vernacular library in South Africa,” says NATIVE VML’s Head of Inventions, Levon Rivers.