E-books attract young writers

Indranil Chakraborty

Come December 2005, the young and talented writers will be invited to join eAuthor contest by Oxfordbookstore.com. They are the fiction writers whose works have never been published as printed books. This time around, they will get an opportunity to have their works displayed on the internet after the online talent search competition.

“The first three shortlisted fiction by young authors will be put on our website for public reading, besides the cash prize for the best fiction,” says Mona Sengupta, manager —marketing and alliances, Apeejay Oxford Bookstores Pvt Ltd. This is one example of virtual publication which is seriously posing as an alternative to print or offline publication.

Best seller authors like John Grisham have started putting up the first chapter of his new fiction on the internet to entice the readers to buy the print version. Several global internet companies like Google and Amazon plan to offer online versions of various printable contents available in the libraries across the world, besides the existing print version with a price tag to see and download the online version. Recently, Microsoft announced that it would tie up with Open Content Alliance (OCA), that includes Yahoo and University of California and Internet Archive, to develop a MSN Book Search.

One of the earliest initiatives in electronic books was that of Project Gutenberg started by a student of Illinois in July 1971. For him, the goal was to source books whose copyright had expired and make them available free in the virtual world. The first digitised library was developed out of the project Gutenberg and it was also the first internet information site.

According to Marie Lebert’s article on “Michael Hart: Changing the world through e-books”, Michael himself typed in the first hundred books. Now, volunteers across the world have joined the project and a million e-books will be available by 2015. The project has becomeglobal and at the same time country-specific.

“The books are digitised in text format with caps for terms in italic, bold or underlined, so they can be read easily by any machine, operating system or software,” said Ms Lebert. If this is one example of ebooks, the other is the initiatives by Google which is Google Print. Google’s aim is to digitise the content of libraries and develop a database which would be linked to Google search. It plans to make part of the text available to the netizens. In the US, Authors’ Guild and Association of Publishers are opposing Google’s Print program as the both the publishers and authors believe that their could be copyright violation once the texts are available online. Both Microsoft and Yahoo have announced that they will separately fund OCA digitisation and scanning of works available in the public domain. Penguin India president Thomas Abraham thinks that in the Indian market, e-publication of books will be limited to reference materials like dictionary and encyclopedia. At present, Penguin India’s online initiative is limited to promotional activity of sample chapters of forthcoming books.

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