The central government is planning a project to convert all books covered under school curricula into e-books.
The project is being loosely termed e-basta and could put the government at par with some large e-book hosting platforms such as Amazon.
The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is building the platform to host the e-books, Ram Sevak Sharma, secretary to the department of electronics and information technology, told Business Standard, "The platform should be ready in a month and will be like an intelligent online marketplace, where suggestions for related books, etc, will be given."
The platform will also provide to publishers the tools and technology for converting their books into e-books. There will be a payment gateway built in, to enable purchase of higher-end books, which will not be available for free download. "This project, along with others such as biometric attendance and e-greetings, are part of the priority projects under the Digital India initiative," added Sharma. Both have been rolled out within a few months of their announcement.
The Union Cabinet approved the blueprint for the Digital India project in August. It is expected to see investment upwards of Rs 1,00,000 crore over the next three to four years. The project envisages all government services be delivered electronically by 2018. It will also provide "high-speed internet as a core utility" down to the gram panchayat level and a "cradle-to-grave digital identity - unique, lifelong, online and authenticable".
The ministry of education is tasked with the work of identifying the curricula and the books which will be first available on the platform. The books will be shortlisted in coordination with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Currently, several private organisations, as well as technology and education firms, offer e-books of the NCERT curriculum. However, these are scattered across platforms and are not comprehensive. The idea of a government platform is make sure all the material is available at one place, is current and easy to access.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a big proponent of digitising libraries. In early 2013, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, he'd said efforts were underway to make books available in every household in the state through technology. "Libraries will now be just a click away for people. The importance of e-books is increasing," Modi had said. Every publisher releases a digital book, too, which had helped in increasing the reach, he added.
Students might be aided with digital devices such as notebooks to make the central project successful.