Two budding Tunisian startups have launched a project to supply Taxi-riders in Tunis with books for their journey.
The initiative, a collaborative effort between Tunisian companies Etaxi and Yallaread, is set to provide customers with an en-route selection of reading material, and is the first of its kind in the country.
Etaxi, a web application that was launched in 2013, aims to “revolutionize and facilitate access to the most common means of transport in Tunis, the Taxi.” The app, which allows users to hail a Taxi simply by mapping their current location and intended destination on the online portal, gives Tunisians an alternative to waving down a cab on the street. The app also provides an estimation of travel time and expected cost.
Partnering with Etaxi on the project, is YallaRead, an online platform that facilitates the free exchange of books between users. It was founded in 2015, but started operating recently in May.
In recent months, the companies envisioned a way to address what they consider to be an alarming trend in Tunisian society: the lack of access to reading materials. (A recent study found that a 79% of Tunisians do not have any reading material in their homes other than the Quran, and some magazines and newspapers.)
Tarak Hentati, who heads the communications end of Etaxi, talked about the impetus behind combining the two projects.
“People generally get bored in taxis because they have nothing to do,” he said to Tunisia Live. “…So it’s easy, the book is already there in front of them! It’s just a bonus.”
While only five taxis have been supplied with books so far, Etaxi has already received positive feedback from its customers.
“People liked the idea,” said Hentati. “Someone even called us and offered to put their own books in taxis.” The next step is to spread the initiative to other cities and regions outside of Tunis, he added.
That step, however, would require additional resources, according to Ahmed Hadhiri, co-founder of YallaRead.
“We’d need support, sponsors and a bigger collection of books,” he told Tunisia Live.
For Hadhri, countering Tunisians’ poor reading habits, was one of the central motivations for starting YallaRead.
“If it weren’t for that, maybe we might not have created this platform at all,” he said.
While Hadhiri acknowledged that fostering strong reading habits among those who don’t usually read is a challenge, he’s convinced that encouraging an enjoyment of literature among Tunisians will affect all of society.
“A strong community of readers would influence the others,” he said.
As customers are unlikely to finish an entire book during their Taxi ride, a QR code on each book allows readers to connect directly to the book’s page on YallaRead so they can continue at their own pace later.
With a collection of more than 1,300 books in Arabic, French and English, Hadhri said that there are no more excuses for people not to read.
“People can read while spending zero millimes!” he said.
Prior to working as a journalist, Inel worked as a computer programmer. Inel is fluent in English, French, and Arabic. He writes mainly about freedoms, liberties, and minorities' rights in post revolution Tunisia. He currently blogs about films in French and writes metal reviews.