books

The Human Resource Development ministry has said that the first phase of its National Digital Library will be complete by February, reports the Indian Express. This will include reaching 1 million digitized books and journals from 100 institutes. The library will be accessible to everyone.

Interestingly, the National Digital Library is a pretty old initiative. The Deity announced the program back in August 2010. The mission states that it will make collaborative arrangement between institutions in India and the US to digitize a million books containing both technical literature and art. The project is listed as completed, with 13 servers installed at nodal centers to host the books. The nodal centres are provided with internet speeds between 512 kbps and 2 Mbps to host these servers (ouch!).

The mission page also lists various organizations from which it will get content to digitize, and the stage of digitization the data is in. The digital library website is currently hosted by two agencies: IUCAA in Pune and IISc in Bangalore. Both websites pretty much mirror each other, although the Bangalore hosted page prompts the user to check out the new DLI (Digital Library of India) website out. However, this just leads to a dead link.

Books can be searched for on the website alphabetically either by author or title name, by year, by subject or by language. Topics of books include astrophysics, education, chemistry, law, biology, mathematics, mythology etc., while languages include Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu, other than English. The website’s interface is passable.

There is another national library of India, which is run by the Ministry of Culture. However, we could only find one book in the “recently digitized” section of the library, with its catalogue displaying no books at all. Users can also register on this platform, but with no easy way to access the books and with the abysmal interface, there is no reason to do so.

Too many platforms: Last week the University Grants Commission (UGC) said it would launch Bharatvani, with the objective of delivering content in all Indian languages through the online portal. Similarly, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) currently offers copyrighted textbooks online, covering all textbooks published by the agency. There is also Sakshat, an initiative which aims to develop a variety of content like e-content for botany, commerce, history, economics etc.

MediaNama’s take: While it is great to see work being done to digitize books of a variety of topics in many languages, the Government’s approach has been haphazard. It is hard to see any concrete results when each department is launching its own digitisation initiative, like we mentioned above: one is lying in a 5 year limbo, another has an interface which a child could design better, and one is yet to be launched. Wouldn’t it be better to set up one centralized effort to digitize books with the help of other organizations? At the very least, this way, the interface would be better and there would be more accountability on what is actually being done.

Image source: Flickr user simonbooth