ABU DHABI // Researchers, tourists and anyone curious about the UAE are now just a click away from accessing publications about the country. The National Media Council, the body that runs the news and information portal UAE Interact (www.uaeinteract.com), yesterday launched an e-library which sources books that can be accessed online, including a UAE Yearbook in English, Arabic and French, a book on the Emirates' natural history, and a biographical tribute to Sheikh Zayed, the late founder of the nation.
Commissioned by the council, the 2009 UAE Yearbook has 337 pages and contains an abridged history of the country, an overview of the economic and social development of the past year, and an account of the exhibitions and events over the same period. The e-library is available free, and the books can be viewed by an e-reader programme embedded in the website or downloaded in PDF format. While still not as successful as their print counterparts, e-books have become increasingly popular with the digitally savvy.
Earlier this month, Google announced it would make 1.5 million e-books available free in a format compatible with "smart phones", such as Apple's iPhone, while Amazon launched a sleeker version of its electronic book reader device, Kindle, a few days after. Electronic books still do not have a large following here, but they are popular with students because they are cheap and easy to access. "I think it is a good initiative, especially if these books aren't available in print, or are hard to find," said Mark Donovan, head of English at Dubai College. "Also, books may be too pricey and this is a good alternative."
Mr Donovan uses online libraries for classics and literature to complement his teaching. But he says the resources available on the website are more useful to geography and history teachers. He hopes that more books by local writers will be featured on the e-library website. Ibrahim al Abed, the council's director general, said he would be actively encouraging overseas "colleagues" to use the new resource.
He added that he hoped the initiative would pave the way for more books to be available online. The council is working on expanding its e-library in the coming months. email@example.com