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Now, get ready to browse through ‘world’s first’ Bengali e-book library

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By Nirmalya Nag Kolkata, Jul 14 (PTI) Two technocrats and a digital media expert have teamed up to bring out an online Bengali e-book library, touted to be the world’s first such initiative in the “truest sense of the term”.

Borrowed e-books in epub files, and not in PDF ones that are available aplenty on the internet, can be read on the library’s application on mobile phones or tablets, the project’s founders told PTI.

The ‘’ library’s application will initially offer a mixed bag of around 50 titles — classics, children’s literature, unorthodox books — and all of that will be copyrighted materials.

Old issues of some major little magazines that are not available now can also be found in this library which will be officially launched on July 17, said Pinaki Mitra, one of the three directors of the company that is bringing the facility to bibliophiles.

“The general perception is that e-books mean PDF. There are sites where many Bengali books in PDF files are available. They claim to be e-book libraries. Only one site came to our notice that offers some books in another format (not epub). But the problem is many of these sites violate the copyright law,” Mitra said.

So, in the real sense of the term, it is the world’s first Bengali e-book library, he claimed.

Initially, a subscriber can read five books at a time and membership will be based on a token monthly subscription rate.

“Our main target audience now is Bengalis living outside West Bengal and India. Those who stay abroad find it difficult to get books. Bringing physical books from Kolkata takes a good amount of time and money,” said Debajyoti Bhattacharya, another director of Bestread Publications and Digital Services Private Limited.

Such a mechanism is probably the only way to pass on the habit of reading Bengali books to the next generation, he said.

“The idea came to my mind when I faced difficulties in getting a Bengali primer for my daughter. We have been living in Sweden for the past few years. I found that many people like me have gone through the same ordeal. For the internet giants in this field, Bengali is not a priority language,” said Mitra.

The local municipality-run library in Sweden, of which Mitra is a member, has digitised a portion of their collection and they are available in epub format which provides a better reading experience than PDF.

“Neither Bengali classics nor books by modern-day authors are available in a format that can give you a nice reading experience. So, we started discussing among ourselves and finally took the plunge when people showed interest in the proposal of a Bengali e-book library,” he said.

They started working on the project around August last year and found that besides forming a viable business model, the technology part – from reproducing old books in a digital form to securing the books from unscrupulous elements – is the key.

“Borrowed books will remain online and those will never be on the device of the reader. Readers won’t be able to take screenshots of pages. Professional level tests to check hacking of the application have been done and those will be carried out periodically,” said Bhattacharya who is currently based in the UK.

The library’s android application will be formally launched at an event in Kolkata on July 17, though it may take a week or more for people to get access to the library on android platform. Soon, it will be available on iOS too.

“Even after the launch, we will be working continuously to better readers’ experience and add new features. However, currently our focus is on uploading more books,” Mitra said.

Dr Nandini Ghosh, a banker and a bibliophile who loves to read Bengali books, welcomed the initiative and said though she has no problem reading PDF files, epub definitely gives a better experience.

“Their success will depend on the basket of books they are going to offer. The technical aspects have to be very strong — from the payment gateway level for the borrowers to copyright issues for the publishers or authors,” said Ghosh whose job has kept her out of West Bengal for the past 25 years or so.

There can be an online mechanism where readers can interact with each other about the books they are reading. And it will be great if readers can virtually meet authors, maybe once a month or so. These are the suggestions put forth by Ghosh for the authorities. is also a platform to sell ebooks as well as publish.

“We have the technology to make ebooks from hard or soft copies. These are other ways to generate revenues. We are interacting with other publishers in this regard,” Mitra said. PTI NN JRC ACD ACD

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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