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A mission to preserve over 40 years of book reviews and literature for the future generation

Saniya Raza
8th Nov 2017
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Heading the mission of digitally archiving 41 years of treasured journals, The Book Review Literary (TBRL) Trust of India has initiated a crowdfunding campaign. With a target of raising Rs 7 lakh, their focus is to use the funds to scan, upload, and provide easy online access to in-depth reviews of books published in India and abroad.

Preserving information online that can be accessed at absolutely no cost has proven to be an ingenious idea. It plans ahead in case something were to happen to valuable data and also makes accessibility to physical objects wider, geographically.

With the advent of digital archiving; book reviews, research papers, articles and other physical intellectual material that serve both as a reference and a major influence on our reading habits have been rapidly preserved online. To join this force and make their literature review known with easy access, The Book Review Journal (TBR), a monthly magazine published by The Book Review Literary Trust, has gone online since January 2012.

Its aim is to preserve the evaluations of books from the world over, by uploading the entire archives on its website so that they may become permanent resources for readers, students, scholars, publishers, and authors.

A brief history of The Book Review

“Uma Iyengar, Chitra Narayanan and I came together in 1975 and joined the JN Memorial Fund research staff with Professor S Gopal as the general editor. Our offices were located in Teen Murti House, Delhi and the idea of starting a journal devoted to books was born.” shares Chandra Chari, Founding Editor, The Book Review Literary Trust.

With assistance from Chitra’s father, KR Narayanan, former President of India (then in the IFS, posted in the Ministry of External Affairs), Professor KN Raj, an economist, Nikhil Chakravartty a well-known journalist and Roesh Thapar, editor of Seminar; Chandra, Uma and Chitra launched The Book Review (TBR), India’s journal of views and reviews in 1976.

The journal took off from with a subscription of Rs 10 for a year and soon within two years, from a quarterly, it became a bi-monthly publication. Publishers vied with each other to send the journal their latest publications. “By keeping the journal going as a cottage industry and ourselves as editors with no salaries, we managed to keep the account in the blue at all times and prove wrong the notion that niche literary journals do not last long. We continue to do so, even after 41 years,” says Chandra.

The idea of The Book Review Literary Trust came from Nikhil Chakravartty, founder of Perspective Publications and Narayanan much later in 1989. Their plan was of establishing a Trust by starting a corpus and managing the publication and other activities through the Trust. Chitra, Uma and Chandra were made the founding trustees and The Book Review Literary Trust was set up in October 1989, in New Delhi as a non-political and ideologically non-partisan organisation.

In 41 years of existence, the goal of both the trust and the journal is to disseminate information about advancements in knowledge and books, seeking to reflect all shades of intellectual opinions and ideas. The chief objective of the Trust remains the publication of The Book Review Journal.

The need for digital archives

TBRL Trust along with publishing the journal undertakes other activities like book subsidies to publishers, organising seminars, lectures and publishing translations from Indian languages. “We have built up a small corpus of funds and the interest from audiences along with subscriptions and advertisements have been enough to fund these activities.”

The Trust through its various activities in the literary and the academic field and The Book Review has created a niche for itself.

“From its inception, an illustrious Editorial Advisory Board has helped evolve a cogent policy in fine-tuning the art of reviewing books and maintaining a standard of excellence. TBR has been associated with literary & intellectual giants like Nikhil Chakravarty, Barbara Epstein, Amartya Sen and Romila Thapar to name a few, they have very graciously reviewed books that come from across the world. Our lectures have also turned out to be landmark event because of their presence,” says Chandra.

The Book Review Journal, a source for researchers and a bridge for works in translation has also been praised for its quality and the space it provides for reviews, Chandra adds saying, “For years now, we have been struck by scholars from all over the world, places like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh asking for us to review their work. They publish a lot of really good books but do not have a forum like ours, where they can access work from others and also have their reviews uploaded. It is for this reason that we decided to upload the entire archives on our website, so that there is one common platform for everyone to use.”

As of January 2012, TBR has gone online digitising all the reviews of the journal dating back from 2004 to the present. They has managed to attract a wide readership from all over the world. Their biggest challenge, however, lies in typing or scanning and then uploading the issues from 1976 to 2003 as the estimates are way beyond their budget.

Be part of this mission

The team of ten at the Trust have tried to archive most of the issues over a period of time but the process was extremely slow. “Since the process was slow and short on funds, to upload the final spurt and raise the money we required, we decided to opt for crowdfunding so that the archive upload project may be completed by the year 2018.”

Therefore to raise the 7 lakhs computed to help scan and upload the remaining reviews, TBRL Trust has launched the ‘Help in Finishing the Archiving of The Book Review Journal’, a campaign to appeal to the people to donate and help them successfully archive and upload all issues, right from the first to the present in the shortest possible time.

With the Digital Empowerment Foundation backing the team as their media partner, TBR hopes the campaign will raise visibility for both the journal and the trust’s activities, revive and maintain the habit of reading and most importantly give scholars, students and future generations access to vast number of reviews and articles over the last 41 years.

Calling out to all literature lovers, Chandra ends by saying,”Come be part of the digital era and help us create a treasure chest of literary wisdom, literally! Please contribute, in small or large measure to our crowdfunding campaign and join the large circle of friends of The Book Review. Every little bit will take us closer to our target before the 31st of December.”

If you wish to support the campaign, visit www.thebookreviewindia.org.

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