Got a cellphone? You can read a book

2010-08-28 00:00


THANKS to the Shuttleworth Foundation’s latest project, young readers no longer have to go to a library to get a book to read.

The foundation has just introduced a library for cellphone stories, or mobile novels (m-novels).

Yoza is interactive and has been made available free of charge on cellphones, the aim being to encourage teenagers to read and write.

The concept is the brainchild of the foundation’s Steve Vosloo. Yoza is part of the organisation’s m4Lit (mobiles for Literacy) project, which was launched last year.

“For the foreseeable future the cellphone, not the Kindle or iPad, is the e-reader of Africa. Yoza aims to capitalise on that to get Africa’s teens reading and writing,” Vosloo said in a statement.

The Kontax series were the first two books in the library. These books, by Sam Wilson and Lauren Beukes, have been available since last year, but only on MXit. They are about the experiences of of four Cape teenagers who like graffiti art. The stories have already been read 34 000 times on cellphones, according to the statement.

The Yoza library has a classics section that contains prescribed works for learners, like Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Among the available leisure stories are Streetskillz by Charlie Human, Sisterz (Fiona Snyckers), Confessions or a Virgin Loser (Edyth Bulbring), and the popular A Bicycle Ride through Lesotho (Duncan Guy).

These stories were written specifically for the Yoza series.

“In a country where there are far too few books and far too many cellphones, we must harness this technology to our advantage to hold the youth’s attention. We want reading material to be widely accessible and affordable for everyone,” the statement says.

According to the Shuttleworth Foundation, statistics show that 51% of South African households do not possess a single book for leisure reading, while only six percent of households own 40 or more books and only seven percent of all schools have libraries.

“We are currently negotiating with Lapa Publishers to get Afrikaans stories into our library as well,” Vosloo said.

Vosloo says young cellphone users are encouraged not only to read the stories, but also to comment on them and to be part of the revision and writing of stories.

“We want to help create a social network of young readers and writers.”

Yoza can be found on the website, MXit and Facebook.

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