By Apurva Ashar , Executive Director, Cygnet Infotech Pvt. Ltd
Based in Ahmedabad, Cygnet Infotech Pvt. Ltd is a privately held IT solution and services provider with a client base spread across 20 countries in 5 continents. They deliver technology solutions in several industry verticals namely retail, healthcare, e-Commerce, jewelry, e-learning, engineering and manufacturing.
The biggest online store in the world, Amazon.com, sold more e-books than print books way back in 2011 and have ushered more e-books every day than print books in 2014. The proliferation of smart phones, tablets and e-readers has brought about a huge shift in our reading preferences where Indian readers are bound to not be untouched by this trend. Most of us tend to read more on our smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs, than on paper. Strangely, in a world where most prominent publishers release print books and e-books simultaneously, authors and publishers in India have no way of creating or selling regional language e-books. There is a huge market of readers who want to read regional books on their devices, but they simply do not have decent options.
However, with this rise in curiosity in digital consumption of reading material; some businesses have taken people for a ride by selling and distributing PDFs and JPEGs as 'e-books.' Such books are nothing more than scanned copies or photographs of the print versions. In the best cases, the designer may create different sizes for mobiles and PCs, but the text does not reflow and most e-book features are not available. As the text size remains constant, the fonts are too small to be read on smaller devices. So, the prevalence of PDF versions point towards what's wrong with the regional e-book industry.
Book Compatibility Issues
This compatibility issue transcends in most electronic devices having limited support for regional Indian languages and fonts. eShabda in turn aims to create a single EPUB version of a book that is readable across all devices that ensure readers easier accessibility and reading such books equally well on any device by using standard Unicode fonts. The biggest benefit provided by Unicode is that it allows multilingual texts; all modern devices and technologies support it and it is platform and vendor independent. By insisting on the use of Unicode, we open doors to creation of flawless, feature-rich e-books for any regional language.
In having an objective glance at the e-book market in India shows that it is almost non-existent though there is evidence of a chaos of PDFs and JPEGs and pirated copies online. However, there aren't any organizations dedicated to creating electronic versions of regional language books. Readers can, at best, only get a handful of books after downloading a mobile application. Even if someone succeeds in creating an e-book, the readership is miniscule as there are no modes of distributing the books. The only borderline feasible option you have is creating an app through which users can buy the book.
Proactive solution to the Digital readership of Indian Market
On this front, we who have been in the book production business for last 24 years are well-versed with the fonts and technology used to create print books. This means that our organization can speedily and easily convert books from any print format to e-books without another session of retyping or proofreading of the text. This enables us to offer a complete, end-to-end solution to publishers and authors. We can scan the books, convert them, take care of the design and layout, and create an e-book alongside the print versions.
As the DRM rights for Apple and other stores are complicated and dissimilar, we have created an open platform – e-shabda.com – where associated publishers and authors can sell the books. These books can be read on all smartphones and tablets. We also take care of DRM and ensure that the books cannot be copied.
eShabda is an exclusive portal for Indian language e-books; thus, providing a platform for Indian language publishers to convert their physical books into e-books and sell them on e-shabda.com. The portal will be developed by Cygnet Infotech.
With a scheduled launch due on February, with four major Gujarati publishers namely Navjivan Trust, Gurjar Grantha, Image Publications and Saarthak Prakashan; the portal will start with over 300 Gujarati e-books, many of which will be free to download. In the coming months, we hope to work with writers and publishers from other languages as well.