You can now download and read ebooks for free when taking a ride on the Tehran subway. Startup and major ebook publisher Fidibo has launched a new service, providing commuters with free but limited access to an extended collection of ebooks.
For using the services you need to install Fidibo’s app which is available for download on Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play Store and local app markets Café Bazaar and Sib App.
With assistance from Tehran and the Suburban Railway Operation Co, Fidibo has installed touch-screen panels dubbed Fidibox in 22 subway stations that with a few taps display a disposable QR code, the transportation company reported on its website.
After scanning the code via Fidibo, for an hour, commuters will have free access to a collection of 1,000 titles. People can choose from the number, download books for free and read them on their handset. After the one hour time, the book gets locked.
When using the tube the traveler can always get a new code and continue what he/she was reading during the earlier trip. People can also decide to continue reading the book without interruption. To do so they can purchase the books which they have started reading on the subway from Fidibo with a 20% discount.
Installation of Fidiboxes in subway stations is part of a plan known as ‘A library as Vast as a City’ introduced by the municipality that in addition to trying to increase book readership is aimed at helping people make better use of the time spent in public places.
Fidibo chief Majid Ghasemi explains, “Fidiboxes can be installed in other public locations, where people spend hours waiting, like bus stations, hospitals and clinics.”
Through the new service Fidibo is planning to offer themed reading material and introduce online book clubs.
Ghasemi says such services can be offered in subways in other cities. In addition to Tehran, four other cities have a subway system, namely Ahwaz, Tabriz, Shiraz and Mashhad.
Regarding the copyright of books, Fidibo has received the publishers’ assent to offer limited free access to their books through its app. Ghasemi says Fidibox has much potential and can be used as a perfect means by publishers to promote their books and attract a bigger and wider range of readership.
He said the Tehran Municipality and metro officials have assisted the startup in development of the scheme and promised to help the company promote it.
Fidibo was established by the cultural product chain store Book City Company in 2014. The startup works with over 400 publishers, including the well-known Niloofar, Amirkabir, Qoqnoos, Ney, Negah, Ghatreh, Mahi, Agah. Its app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times and some 16,000 books are available through its service.
In addition to Persian, Fidibo offers a limited number of books in English and Arabic and is trying to expand its reach to other countries. It has established offices in Murcia in Spain and Beirut.
In collaboration with its major investor Digikala (Iran’s largest online retailer), Fidibo is set to import ebook reader devices in the near future.
The first Fidibox was unveiled on Feb. 7 at Meydan-e ValiAsr subway station during a ceremony attended by Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi, deputy mayor for transport affairs Mohsen Pourseyed Aghaei and CEO of the subway company Farnosh Nobakht.
During the ceremony, Najafi said, “The municipality welcomes applications of modern technologies, especially when used for addressing cultural issues. Plans like these can help increase book readership mainly among the youth.”
Average book readership is pitifully poor in the country. Iran’s Public Libraries Institution says each Iranian hardly spends about 15 minutes reading books every day.
Echoing Najafi’s comments, Nobakht said, “The subway system boasts an average daily ridership of more than 2 million with each commuter spending up to 35 minutes on average on each trip. Imagine people spending part of this time reading books.”
Depending on the public response to the scheme the number of the Fidiboxes and the stations with the device can be increased, he said.
The subway company has said it will publish monthly reports on the public response and reception of the ebook service.
Fidiboxes have been installed at the following stations: Tajrish, Gholhak, Javanmard-e-Ghassab, Shahed, Daneshgah-e Sharif, Imam Khomeini International Airport, Sadeghiyeh, Theater-e Shahr, Mosalla, Meydan-e Enghelab, Meydan-e Vali Asr, Meydan-e Shohada, Shahrak-e Ekbatan, Bimeh, Baharestan, Azadegan, Imam Khomeini, Karaj, Golshahr, Shademan, Farhangsara, and Meydan-e Azadi.