Tamil readers using a Kindle or a tablet to read books will now be familiar with the woefully inadequate number of titles available in the electronic format.

From ignorance of technology, and insecurity stemming from fear of loss of control over content to the absence of a unified platform to host the books, the Tamil publishing industry faces an array of issues in transiting to the digital version.

According to G. Olivannan of the Bookseller’s and Publishers’ Association of South India, the experience of the music industry has remained a bitter lesson for anyone moving to the digital format.

“In the music industry, copyright no longer has any value. The moment someone uploads a song on the internet, you virtually lose control of the content. This is what publishers also fear given the small market,” he states. This reluctance, he says, also comes from ignorance about the technology itself.

“Some publishers still adhere to obsolete techniques of printing. How do you expect them to embrace e-books?” he wonders.

Noted author S. Ramakrishnan agrees on the ignorance part. Which is why, he has now embarked on a mission to develop his own cross-platform application to sell electronic versions of his books.

The author says that publishers have failed to grasp the market potential of e-books.

“As matters stand, they also don’t have the expertise. I feel there is no point in waiting for any publisher to start the process. I have taken the expertise of developers in London and will launch the app in August,” he says, adding that opening up to digital versions would augment his profits multi-fold.

Managing Director of New Horizon Media Badri Seshadri says the issues are much more complicated.

In the English books world, there are ready-made platforms like Amazon which provides the expertise and facilitates easy hosting of e-books. Such a forum does not exist in Tamil.

Amazon, he says, does not support Tamil language at the moment and lack of technical knowledge of converting the books into electronic format discourages publishers from using other platforms such as Google Play Books.

In this regard, Mr. Badri says his company is in the process of putting out an app that will, in a much smaller scale, replicate the Amazon Kindle model.

“Through the app, called the NHM Reader, we want to provide all the expertise necessary to host an e-book. This includes the process of conversion and we are keeping this open to all publishers and not just ‘Kizhaku’, our publishing house,” he says. The app is likely to be launched next month.

SRUTHISAGAR YAMUNAN

Published in The Hindu dated 03 May 2014

Author: Book Club India

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