Opening a knowledge highway

The National Digital Library of India, which has just started functioning, is nothing short of opening a knowledge highway for everyone who is interested in any subject. At present 17.5 million books and journals in 200 languages on every subject under the sun will be available to the readers. A team of 50 scientists and technicians led by the Director of Kharagpur IIT, Partha Pratim Chakraborty, made the creation of the Digital Library possible. Sponsored by the Union Government, many people at many levels helped in making the dream project a reality. As many as nine thousand organizations were associated with the project. At a time when the prices of books, especially books published abroad and books on science and technology have become prohibitively costly, the Digital Library will be greatly helpful particularly to students. Personal computers have now become as much a common household item as a refrigerator or a TV or a washing machine is. Therefore this library opens up an ocean of knowledge for the common man. Those associated with the project have assured the reading public that more books will become available in future.
There are many who believe that the demand for books in the era of Internet and Wikipedia has come down heavily and the reading habit is on the decline. The more cynical among them would have us believe that in the Book Fair that is held every year in Kolkata, more eatables than books are sold. On the face of it, this is not correct. Were it so, the Book Fair would stop being held long ago. Few are likely to agree with Woodrow Wilson that “I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.”  A habitual reader may counter it by saying, a la Harold Kushner: “I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense.”
Some books become invaluable with the passage of time. The famous Encyclopedia Britannica has stopped publication quite a few years now. Even its DVD version is not available. Those who have the 33-volume Encyclopedia (including two volumes of Index and the one volume Guide to Britannica) in their possession are owners of an invaluable asset.  In a decade or two from now, the printed edition of the Britannica will become a collector’s item costing many times its original price. The Digital Library will be only source then to delve into this invaluable mine of information.

Saturday, 23 June, 2018