'Out of adversity comes opportunity." These are the words of Benjamin Franklin, the iconic American statesman, author and founding father. They are also the words of a librarian's best friend: Mr Franklin helped set up the United States' first ever book-lending library.
So many years later, Mr Franklin's words and actions continue to hold special meaning for reading advocates everywhere. And they are particularly pertinent to the future of the Arabic language in the UAE. Libraries lending Arabic titles are in short supply in the Emirates, but from this adversity can come opportunity - with a 21st century twist.
As The National reported yesterday, Abu Dhabi's only public book-lending service, the National Library, shut more than a year ago as part of a redevelopment of the Cultural Foundation and is not due to reopen until 2015. Its eventual relaunch, and the opening of 15 other libraries across the country, is to be welcomed.
But the current demise of lending services could be the incentive for Arabic language content to take a giant leap into the digital world.
Thanks to the proliferation of digital reading tablets, as well as the ubiquitous use of laptops and home computers, the rise of e-books around the world continues at a staggering pace. Unfortunately, Arabic e-books lag considerably behind English and other languages. Content provider Kotobarabia, for example, now offers around 4,500 titles, 80 per cent of which are no longer, or very hard to find, in print.
By contrast, Amazon has a library of nearly a million English digital books, magazines and newspapers accessible through its Kindle reader.
Efforts are underway to make Arabic titles more readily available. The Qatar Foundation, for instance, is a founding partner of the World Digital Library (WDL), a project launched by the Library of Congress and Unesco to digitise cultural and historical documents. At the recent 21st Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, Ertiqa, a digital content provider across the Middle East, announced the launch of a ground-breaking digital platform called "Ertiqa Digital Library", which will offer Arabic content which can be accessed through mobile devices.
Perhaps it's time for Government agencies - education and culture among them - to partner with these outfits to help create a library of the future. Given the region's preference for gadgets, it seems Arabic e-books may be one of the best ways to keep a young generation reading.