Slowly but surely, e-books take their baby steps in India

But visualise this: you are a bookworm who buys tome after tome, even as it becomes more and more difficult to find space to store them in your typical 2 or 3 BHK apartment. Or this: your institution needs to regularly improve the stock in its library, but lack of space forces you to restrict the though of adding new collections to it.

Now visualise this: you have an entire book collection in your computer, in piracy-proof soft copies. You can read any of your favourite writers on your laptop while on the move, and if you own an e-book Reader, it’s even better. In case of libraries, well, thousands of books can be stored in a small space, in a few computers!

Well, it will be a while before something like this actually becomes common place, as Indian publishers wake up to the emerging world of e-books, but somewhat wary about the potential for easy piracy of e-books. But those pushing for e-book publishing debunk any such possibility, confident as they are about the software being used, and instead point to the world of possibilities that would open up with increasing use of e-books. The fact that e-books can also open the world of the printed word to the visually-impaired – since many e-books can be “read aloud” by computers using specific software, is another definite positive about them. And yes, what goes without saying is that books, if exclusively published in the e-format, will save a lot of paper.

In fact, it is this huge potential that has enthused people like Sachin Wahi, the young managing director of Delhi-based Source Software Solutions Pvt Ltd, to launch ventures like indiaebooks, which he claims to be the only online source for Indian e-books as of now. It was the non-availability of e-versions of Indian books that gave him the idea for the venture, says Wahi. Already, he is working with 50 Indian publishers publishing in various Indian languages, and is hopeful that another about 100 will be on board sooner than latter.

“We produce the e-books for various publishers using our own high-security software that is piracy proof and easy to operate, and are also promoting these books through our website. Ours is probably the only company working with Indian publishers and we have around 10,000 titles across categories,” he says. The software developed by Wahi’s company is called Aastha DRM (digital rights management), and using it, e-versions of a number of English and Hindi titles have already been published. The company is also planning to bring out e-books in Sanskrit, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Kannada, and has tied up with publishers from outside to promote various books about India globally, he says.

Interestingly, along with the e-versions of normal books, Wahi says a fresh trend is authors interested in publishing their writings exclusively as e-books without any hard copy versions. “Many management institutes have already started giving their students only e-versions of books as they are easy to handle, save space and money too,” Wahi says.

Quite naturally, India now has its own versions of e-book readers. One such indigenous reader, called ThisBookReader (TBR), was launched at the recent New Delhi World Book Fair. Parth Online Bookstore Pvt Ltd, which has developed this e-book reader, assures publishers that the technology developed by it renders books piracy-proof, and enables the world’s first e-Rent technology to allow rentals. Vidyut Shah, co-founder of the company, gleefully says that CCH-Wolter Kluwer, one of the world’s leading tax and business law information and software solution providers, has in-principle adopted TBR technology to publish and distribute e-books globally.

“World-wide, the e-book market is worth more than US $2 billion, but even after half a decade of e-books having arrived in India, they have not made much inroads here because of the fear of piracy,” says Saakar S Yadav, director  of Parth. Shah adds that the technology allows publication of books and other content in a secured e-format without any additional cost or setup fees for the software. Those advocating e-books readily count its pluses – they allow even small budget publishing as not much physical infrastructure is needed, are piracy proof if the right technology is used, get potentially a global audience in minutes for even newbie authors, and most importantly, apart from online, they can also be sold through booksellers and retail stores. Seemingly, the only important question remains after all this is: would you give up the luxury of curling up in your bed with your favourite book – uh, the hard copy of the book?

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