Magazine article Information Today

A World of Reading

Magazine article Information Today

A World of Reading

Article excerpt

The National Digital Library of India (NDL India) continues to grow apace, with more than 10 million items now available, most of them free to users. It launched in February and offers a single portal for digitized books, articles, theses, videos, etc. Recently, usage has been boosted by the introduction of smartphone apps.

Nanda Gopal Chattopadhyay, NDL India's CTO, says there are about 181,000 users and an average of about 20,000 hits daily. Apps that enable access run on Android and iOS platforms, he says, with a Windows version 'likely to be launched in [the] near future."

About half the items--nearly 5.7 million--relate to mathematics and natural sciences, and about half a million to computer science. There are also hundreds of thousands of items related to literature, history, geography, and social sciences. "About 60% of these are free or licensed for registered users of NDL," says Chattopadhyay. "Registration in NDL is free."

E-Learning in Africa

Something similar, although on a far smaller scale, is in its infancy in Africa in the form of the recently launched Panacea e-library, the brainchild of Nigerian software company e86 Ltd. It aims to provide affordable access to learning resources via the web and, eventually, smart-phone technology.

Philip Amiola, Panacea's COO, says, "We have a tiered pricing plan that allows users to pay for just what they need. Upon signing up for a free account, readers can choose to remain on the free plan in which case they will only be able to access free resources. Or they can choose from a range of relatively low-priced subscriptions depending on the number of books or resources they would like to access per month. Our highest priced plan is under 14 dollars [a month]. Readers can also pay per resource via our Pay As You Go option."

Panacea has subscribers from Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya and is looking for customers across Africa. "Our goal is to improve access to quality learning resources across the entire continent," says Amiola. A smartphone app to enable access to Panacea is in development. Amiola hopes to increase content by striking deals with publishers and authors, although he admits it's a goal that's "on track," if not quite yet a reality.

Digital Texts in Israel

Elsewhere, Hebrew texts from the 6th century onward are now available in digitized form on the National Library of Israel's Ktiv website. Project manager Tsafra Siew says, "Ktiv includes a catalogue of all known Hebrew manuscripts in the world along with their digital images. The project began in the 1950s with a card catalog and images on microfilms and finally developed into a full digital database."

Siew continues, "The texts are written in Hebrew letters, in a variety of languages--mainly Hebrew, but also other Jewish languages which were written in Hebrew letters, such as Ladino, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Persian, Aramaic and more." She says the project organizers hope to be able to transcribe the texts and make them searchable, as well as translatable.

"The catalogue describes 85,000 Hebrew manuscripts"; about half are digitized, says Siew. "It is estimated that there are 85,000-100,000 Hebrew manuscripts existing today, so the catalogue is expected to grow. As far as images we currently have more than 4 million, and the database is expected to grow to around 12 million."

Accessibility in Malawi

Meanwhile, three major library associations--EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries), the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA), and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)--have called on Malawi to "embrace the spirit of the Marrakesh Treaty" by dropping a legal requirement to check if a work is commercially available before a copy can be made in an accessible format for visually impaired readers. …

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