16th February 2012, www.lankabusinessonline.com
Etisalat's Sri Lankan unit has teamed up with booksellers and a software firm to launch an electronic book store for local publishers and authors, officials said.
The online e-book store, called 'Book Hub' to be commercially launched by end of March, will be in all three languages and available on any telecommunications network to ensure greater accessibility.
Etisalat Wednesday signed a deal with publishers M D Gunasena to launch the electronic book store whose technology was developed by Microimage, a software firm.
"This is for all books published in Sri Lanka in all three languages - Sinhala, Tamil and English," said Etisalat chief executive Dumindra Ratnayaka.
"We hope to list as many books as possible. We've had discussions with most publishers and all are keen to list the books they publish.
"We have a very literate population, we have a passion to read. We will now able to give them books anytime, anywhere and at a lower cost. We are trying to bring smart devices to the country to suit all walks of life."
Ratnayaka said they were having talks with the education ministry to list education texts in electronic format.
"It is far easier for a child to carry a tablet to school than a load of books," he said. "It will be easier for the education ministry to update these books than printed matter.
"We will empower up and coming authors," Ratnayaka said. "One of their biggest problems is that publishers are not willing to print their work because of the cost of holding it. Now with the 'Book Hub' we can open the doors to them."
Rajiv Gunasena, deputy managing director of M D Gunasena, said the book store chain was moving with the times, having seen the extinction of well-known international book stores that did not go electronic.
"Unless publishers and book stores can marry the digital and physical books, we will become extinct," he said.
Books will be available for download on personal computers, tablet computers and smart phones by consumers first using Etisalat and then all other telecom providers.
Harsha Purasinghe, chief executive of Microimage, which built the software for the e-book store, said it was the right time to launch it given the growing popularity of smart phones and mobile computers.
"The timing is right - there are devices now."
He said the consortium will first transform books in different forms and electronic formats into a single standard called the Unicode standard which they encourage all future publishers and authors to use.
The works will then be converted for use in the e-book store and then in 'e-reader' applications.
Multiple payment options will be available including credit cards and pre-and post-paid mobile phone payment schemes to ensure widespread use of electronic books as the cost of smart phones fall.
"We want to ensure somebody really rural will be able to pay for these books," said Purasinghe.
"These devices cost is going to come down drastically. We're going to push vendors to bring this price point further down to less than 10,000 rupees. When that happens everybody would be able to afford them."
Microimage has developed its own encryption technology for digital rights management (DRM).
"This was a key concern for publishers," said Purasinghe. "We will not use standard DRM. We have written our own encryption technology so it's hard to crack for hackers."
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