A Million Ways to Read

Shweta Taneja on the flexibility of e-book publishing and how it can suit individual needs.

“Digital publishing can offer a lot of flexibility, of not only changing the experience of reading itself but targeting specific requirements that a reader has, be it bigger font size or backlighting,” says Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, an international publishing consultant who has been associated with the Indian publishing industry for 20 years. “India has a lot of markets within one market, so no single digital strategy is going to work.”
Like Dailyhunt and ChapterApps, the focus of another forthcoming publishing house, Juggernaut Books (Juggernaut.in ) is mobile. They plan to use the pay-to-download model and will include a pay-by-chapter model so that readers can try out a new author. Their aim is to optimally design the app and content they offer in accordance with mobile reading habits. “On an average, people read for 10-15 minutes on the phone without getting interrupted, be it during a commute or late at night,” says Delhi-based Durga Raghunath, CEO, Juggernaut Books.
Ultimately, it’s not technology that will determine which way the readers will swing, it’s the content. “If a book is good, even 1,000 pages or 18 sequels is not enough. If it’s lousy, even 10 pages are too much,” says best-selling author Ashok Banker, who self-publishes his e-books while his print books go through established publishers. “Today, e-book sales of my titles outsell the print editions by a factor of 10-20 times. It’s a strong source of royalty and a great way to get the books where the print edition isn’t available,” he adds.
Pratham Books, a Bengaluru-based non-profit that wants to see a storybook in every child’s hand, knew it couldn’t reach 240 million children in India on its own. So it launched StoryWeaver, an open-source digital repository for collaborative storymaking. The platform has more than 1,100 stories for children, with illustrations, all free to use.
“The platform lets you refurbish a book according to your requirement,” says Suzanne Singh, chairperson, Pratham Books. You can read, download, use, reuse, translate any of the stories, or create new ones for others. StoryWeaver works on Unicode, which makes it easier to read or create stories in any language without requiring a font to be downloaded. Launched in September, the platform has already had 95,000 views. “Five-six new versions of a story come up on the platform every single day,” says Singh, adding that she’s surprised it’s catching on so fast.

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