A Dubai-based edutech start-up has launched a digital library for researchers in Saudi Arabia — the first subscription-based library for scholarly literature of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Academic literature is usually hidden behind expensive paywalls or restricted to those who are affiliated with big organizations. Now Zendy, developed by Knowledge E, is offering users affordable access to scholarly works from around the world.
In step with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development agenda and its efforts to foster a culture of research, innovation and entrepreneurship, Zendy will give students, professionals and hobbyists access to thousands of articles, e-books and scholarly resources.
“Zendy is a massive online library available to every single individual in the region,” Kamran Kardan, Knowledge E founder and CEO, told Arab News.
“If you take a look at the current status of how you can access academic content, books, journals and literature related to that, it’s very cumbersome,” he said.
“You have to be a part of a larger institution, university or organization like the ministry of health, or a place where they can actually afford access to the content. And not all institutions can afford access to all the multiple publishers that are available out there.”
Zendy’s aim is to break down barriers to scholarly discovery by providing individuals with affordable access to the world’s latest research and literature — drawing inspiration from the evolution of music and television consumption.
“The whole idea stemmed from what’s happening to the entertainment and music industry, like Netflix and iTunes, and applying it to academic content, making it affordable,” Kardan said. “So, the whole idea was to open all of that content up and make it affordable, on a monthly subscription or an annual cost.”
With a background in publishing at Oxford University Press in the UK, Kardan has made it his mission to promote open access and to help higher education institutions discover new research strategies through various business frameworks. He moved to Dubai 15 years ago to promote scholarly access among universities, businesses and consortiums across the region.
“When I moved in 2006, it was the start of a transition from the print world to electronic,” he said. “Libraries were predominantly shelves full of books and journals and, if you could imagine a researcher who was trying to find something, it was such an effort to go through all these different indexes that you have available.
“To actually find all the relevant information you were looking for was a task of its own.”