Classic pride

OH! Google, that child of cyber space, finally came out with its electronic book store, which promises to create yet another revolution in the way people use their screens, on computers and other devices, like cell phones, e-book readers and what have you.

A screen grab of the Home page of the Google Books website

Google has finally made an entry into the world dominated by Inc, a company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, which started as an online bookstore, but morphed into an online marketplace for DVDs, toys, CDs, MP3 downloads, computer software, electronics, apparel, video games and even furniture.

Amazon Kindle, an e-book reader that the company launched in November 2007, slowly changed the way people read books and a year later, Amazon’s Kindle-based library included two lakh titles.

The publishing world and the public at large were shaken up when in July 2010 Amazon announced that e-book sales outnumbered sales of hardcover books. The latest figures say that the company sells as many as 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover books.

Coupled with the enormous success of the i-Pad as an e-book reader, with Nook by Barnes and Noble and Sony e-book reader, there is a growing number of platforms for e-books and now Google has entered the game.

Actually, Google has been digitizing books since 2004 and has the largest digital library in the world, some 1.2 crore books and counting. They have been putting their copyright-free books and magazines like ‘Life’ online for years.

The new project, however, is different, it allows readers to buy or download free books and sync them across various platforms, thus you can read it on a computer in office, continue reading the book on your Internet-enabled cell phone while commuting, and then boot up your home computer to read on…. Sounds alluring, and thought most of us are usually so tired of watching the computer screen in office that the last thing we want to do is read from another screen.

While publishers debate about whether e-books will allow self-published volumes to swamp cyberspace and bemoan the inevitable loss of quality that will follow, I was quite amused to see the first title that Google Books had made available for the new service. It was the Jane Austen classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’, digitized in 2007 from the volume published by R. Bentley, in 1853.

Ah, the pride I felt at this selection. For me, the debate was settled there and then. Quality writing is timeless; it will always win, no matter which format it is presented in. The permanence of word written well transcends media, and indeed, limitations of time, too.

This middle by Roopinder Singh was published in The Tribune on January 11, 2011.

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