All of us grew up reading books in our native languages. We all started to speak in our mother tongue before learning English at school. Unfortunately as we grow up, we either stop reading books or we move on to reading English books. One of the reasons for this, as we found out after talking to people, is the non-availability of vernacular books. The idea of the Pustaka Lending Library in Bangalore was mooted to solve the problem of non-availability of Tamil books in Bangalore. We later on added eBooks in Telugu for the consumption of our readers from the Andhra region.
As an IT professional, I end up travelling a lot to foreign countries and saw the same problem that book loving NRIs are facing. I was surprised to see that the number of eBooks available in Indian languages is very less except for a few illegal scanned printed books. Since eBooks is the preferred way of reading for the young generation it’s not surprising that they are moving to reading English books. Thanks to the booming internet, our young generation is hooked on to gadgets and there are 25 million mobile internet users in India, out of which 32 per cent access internet only via mobile. Our research also reveals that 75 per cent of eBook users belong to the age group of 15-34. We wanted to solve the problem of non-availability of vernacular language books for reading buffs.
Our portal houses books in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. These eBooks are available for purchase as well as lending. We got a great response after the initial launch. A few authors approached us proactively to publish their books. We wanted to provide a platform for young and new authors to publish their works. We got lots of encouraging messages and appreciation mails from NRI customers, which clearly show that there is a void in this area.
Shared Attention Spans
As Jeff Bezos said in his recent interview, “Books are competing with Candy Crush and likes.” Reading a book needs more time when compared to blogs/articles/WhatsApp forwards. If we want to bring the healthy culture of reading books among the young generation, then we have to make books easily accessible and cheaper. That is the intention behind our subscription model which enables the user to read more books at a lesser price instead of buying those books. One can read as many as seven books at the buying cost of one book or two..As many as 80 per cent of our customers have bought subscription over individual books.
The Royalty Model
We wanted our venture to be completely legal. One of the distinguishing factors of Pustaka is that authors are given royalty not only for the sale of the books, but also for lends. This is probably the first model that pays authors whenever subscribers borrow their books to read. We have legally obtained the consent and permission for selling and lending books that are currently available on our portal and are in the process of obtaining more titles. Our team includes language advisors for each regional language who are consulted on the choice of books and authors. Currently, we have around 250+ titles across four languages – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. We are actively working on adding new authors and books to our portal.
We want Pustaka Portal to become synonymous with books all over the world. Our portal has to be a one-stop shop for readers of any language of India. We hope to digitize some of the rare artifacts and literary works so that these priceless collections can be preserved for future generations. Underlying all these ambitions is our burning desire to enable readers to have ready access to books that they want to read no matter where they are.