May 4, 2016

Sharjah Books is publishing the world’s first virtual reality book


Print’s not dead! Or, not dead yet, anyways. (Kidding! Print rules.) But soon, books will be fully integrated into the zombie-filled virtual-reality dream/hell-scape that mankind must eventually embrace. Well, at least Sharjah Books, a publisher and distributor based in the United Arab Emirates, is taking steps in that direction.

In conjunction with children’s imprint Kalimat Publishing, Sharjah is putting together “the world’s first virtual reality book.” The book in question is Baba Zayed, a child’s account of the life and times of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father and first president of the federation.

Produced as part of a campaign promoting this year’s Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and available in English and Arabic, information on what exactly a “virtual reality book” entails seems rather scarce. Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, a chief executive at Sharjah, told Maria Konnikova at The Atlantic:

“With the launch of the digital publication Baba Zayed, we are seeking to utilize the latest development in expanding knowledge.

“This technology has been available in world markets for some time, but its uses up until now have been limited to digital games and films.

“This book will be the first of its kind in the world that uses the 3D VR Glasses to enable children to read and at the same time enjoy 360-degree interaction with the story.”

Interesting, if somewhat vague.  And there is this photo, which is terrifying, but ultimately uninformative:

Look at the kid third from the right, and tell me that VR isn't scary as hell.

Look at the kid third from the right, and tell me that VR isn’t scary as hell.

All kidding aside, the goal of the project is admirable (we think). Here’s a bit more from Al Ameri:

“The use of digital virtual technology in books is one of the creative ideas that exemplifies the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, for the importance of nurturing children’s minds with knowledge and intellect. We want children to discover the pleasure of reading and aspire to make use of all means that help achieve this target. In doing so, we hope to contribute to creating an educated generation capable of building itself and serving the nation.”

Which doesn’t seem all that dystopian. But, then again, there’s that picture…



Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.