Friday, September 12, 2014

Diving Into a Digital Universe – Part 1

discover the possibilities
There was a time when I couldn't bear the thought of reading on a gadget. I couldn't imagine not hearing the faint but comforting sounds of pages being turned and definitely wasn't ready to give up being able to smell the pages of a book. I worried about the eventual decline of print books and wondered if it might become something of an antique item twenty years from now (as is predicted in Gary Shteyngart's dystopian novel 'Super Sad True Love Story').

But that was a while ago. These days, I read the news on my phone during my commute to work and occassionally steal my husband's Kindle. Needless to say, my apprehensions about the digital book universe have reduced considerably, and I now approach it with more curiosity and optimism. Although I do retain a tiny bit of skepticism – which is known to be healthy ­ I'm determined to get myself an e­book reader this year.

At Pratham Books, we have already digitized several books and plan on scaling it up significantly in the next few years. Combining this with actively obtaining the Creative Commons licenses for several of our books in multiple languages (imagine accessing all our wonderful books for free!), we hope to continue our efforts with promoting literacy and also contribute towards reducing the digital divide that is likely to emerge in the next few years.

In the last few years, the book­ publishing industry has had to reinvent itself constantly, based on emerging trends in reading habits, preferences and technological innovations sparked by the digital revolution. Pratham Books asked a few children's authors and illustrators how they feel about the changing form of the book – from print to digital – and if and how this has affected their creative processes. We're publishing their views as a 3­part series, so do watch out for more of these on our blog and join us in our explorations of this new and vibrant world.

Natasha Sharma, Author & Illustrator

I find the changes in the form of books tremendously exciting. It allows many opportunities for stories to reach new audiences in new forms. In my opinion, a book, be it presented in any form, still needs at its core, all the elements of a strong story. When I think through a story and develop characters and plot, I don’t find any change in my creative process. However, I do think that for a story to be effectively converted from one format to another, say from print to ebook, you do need to think through changing some aspects to fully exploit the opportunities of the new medium and make it effective.

I still think of books in their traditional format first, but I am sure that people with a better grasp on this space can explore many wonderful formats. When one builds in gaming, alternative story lines or involving the reader in decision making within the story, it really is a brave new world. 

Having said that, I still love to curl up with a physical book.

Check out Natasha Sharma's books 'Kaka and Munni' and 'Anaya's Thumb'.

Praba Ram, Author & Founder of Saffron Tree (a website that reviews children's books)

In the history of publishing, we know “print” has always embraced a diverse set of constantly changing medium and many different technologies. From a production angle, when that final PDF is sent, you know the creative process, as in, the interaction between your publisher and you (the author) is over. So taking that format to the reader is the next step. Popularity of PDFs has helped people warm up more to the idea of e­books. The writing process for the author, in my opinion, remains unchanged, only the delivery mode is constantly changing. Digital content is a heterogeneous entity with competition from image ­oriented apps and games. I feel optimistic that, irrespective of the pressure that books face from emerging new technologies, the written word will always prevail. So long as the reader savours and favours the written word, in print or digital format, over any other image­oriented app or games.

Check out Praba Ram's book 'Subbu, the Signal'.

 ~Written by Yamini Vijayan

Image Source : Georgie Pauwels

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