The eBook Story – Past, Present and Future

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Experts concur that a major cause for the increase in the digital divide across the globe can be attributed to the digital revolution, which covers a very wide spectrum starting from conversion of basic analog text to audio and video descriptions illustrating the working of advanced medical imaging systems. The results of digitization can be immediate and rewarding for any business.

“Success in business is dependent on the ability to capitalize on opportunities at the right time”

Few people know that the River Nokianvirta in Finland was the inspiration behind the name for the electronic giant, Nokia Corporation. The company was founded by a young mining engineer Fredrik Idestam in 1865. Nearly 150 years of business mergers, reforms and reinventions have contributed to making Nokia the company we know today. Nokia, one of the world’s most sustainable technology houses with a total employee strength of more than 100,000, has manufactured more than 500 mobile handset models and numerous other electronic merchandise. Nokia announced the sale of their device and service verticals to Microsoft on April 25, 2014. While professionals are debating the various factors that led to Nokia’s downfall, many strongly believe that it was the company’s lackadaisical approach towards the smartphone market that hastened its downfall. Surprisingly, Nokia was the first to come up with a prototype of the touch and internet-enabled smartphone as early as in 1996. However, it did not recognize the increasing importance of software, underestimated the significance of the transition to smartphones and failed to re-orient its R&D efforts to meet the market sentiment. Put simply, Nokia “missed the bus” to capitalize on an open opportunity and paid the price for doing “too little too late.”

The Digital World – Current Strategy

The concept of the ebook has a similar story. Despite the raging debates that the print media, in other words books, is being sabotaged by digitization, publishing houses have actually accepted this development quite willingly. The technology is cheap, saves space, is travel friendly, ecofriendly and, more importantly, convenient.

The Cambridge Digital Library – Cambridge University Library’s digitization project that aims to make all the contents of the Cambridge Library available online – is one such example of the extent to which digitization is influencing the future of libraries worldwide. The digitization drive of the Cambridge Digital Library is driven by the logic that by digitizing books it will be possible to preserve their content and make it accessible to readers, literally for time immemorial, in the process overcoming the possibility of any damage to the existing fragile originals by eliminating the need for physical handling. Some of the remarkable accomplishments in this digitization effort of the Cambridge Digital Library include Isaac Newton’s personally annotated first edition of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica and original Islamic manuscripts of the Quran from Tipoo Sahib’s library.

Internet giant Google Inc. has revealed its attempt to digitize every title using the “Google Book Search” project. Similarly, in late 2007, Amazon introduced “Kindle” – a e-reader device that uses wireless networking to autodeliver magazines, ebooks, newspapers, blogs, etc., as soon as the printed issue hits the stands. In fact, current trends indicate that the digital versions are being released ahead of the print versions. Amazon announced that their ebook sales for Kindle readers outnumbered the sales of hardcover books for the first time in 2010.

Not to be left behind in this digitization drive epublishers across India are promoting interest in ereaders by flooding the market with festive and weekend offers. Comic Con India – an online digital content provider based in New Delhi – says, “We are taking steps to ensure that Indian comics and mythological tales survive and are available to its fans easily.”

eBooks – A Window of Opportunity

The popularity of the internet and the myriad technologies of the day have ensured the wide reach and success of ebooks. As an ebook author or publisher, the fact that your content is not restricted to a single region is a huge selling point. For writers, the electronic medium holds the ultimate promise for self-publishing their work worldwide. They can reach a broader audience and have a better prospect of making a profit. Creative work is absorbed immediately by publishers, thereby generating healthy competition to produce quality ebooks in the online marketplace.

Today, reading content digitally has become a part of everyday life, so much so that “half of the American population has a handheld device for ebook reading,” says a Pew Research Report. Smartphones, ereaders and tablets are gaining popularity, offering additional opportunities for the “ebBook revolution.” The growing market of high functionality, low-priced, sleek, touch-enabled HD tablets and the increasing demand by readers to access content on such devices are forcing publishers to digitize diverse content, including school textbooks, research/business reports, and content in local languages, interactive ebooks and other similar products. The ebook concept is definitely here to stay and poses a window of opportunities waiting to be tapped for the benefit of one and all!