New Delhi: To boost the efforts towards making non-academic books accessible across India, the Union Ministry of Education exchanged a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Book Trust (NBT) on June 3 to strengthen Rashtriya e-Pustakalaya, a digital library platform aimed to foster a love for reading among Indian children and youth. The exchange ceremony, held in New Delhi, was attended by senior officials including K Sanjay Murthy, Secretary, Higher Education; Sanjay Kumar, Secretary, School Education & Literacy; and Joint Secretary, School Education & Literacy, Archana Sharma Awasthi.

Yuvraj Malik, Director of NBT (Left) exchanges MoU with Education Ministry officials.
Yuvraj Malik, Director of NBT (Left) exchanges MoU with Education Ministry officials.

Rashtriya e-Pustakalaya Highlights

Rashtriya e-Pustakalaya, as of now, offers over 1,000 non-academic books in more than 22 Indian languages, as well as English, published by over 40 reputed publishers. The platform categorizes books for readers aged 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years, and is available on Android and iOS. Rashtriya e-Pustakalaya, managed by NBT, includes genres of literature, fiction, classics, non-fiction, history, biographies, graphic novels, mystery, science, and poetry.

Inclusivity And Accessibility

The digital library aims to bridge the digital divide and promote cultural awareness, patriotism, and empathy. Officials expect it to pave the way for an inclusive and accessible reading environment and promote healthy reading habits among youth.

K. Sanjay Murthy emphasised the role of non-academic books in shaping children’s future academic pursuits and urged NBT to involve academic faculty in authoring quality books for the platform.

“See the special emphasis on students with different abilities; there is a well-articulated plan on how we are supposed to reach out to them… When discussing how content reaches these students, it’s important to note that we are not just talking about audio-visual aides; there are many other disabilities that educational institutions are focusing on. All of these considerations will be incorporated into the action plans they have developed,” Murthy told ABP Live.

“For visually impaired students, there will be a special segment of braille books, though these require physical touch. Additionally, there is an effort to develop an app that allows visually impaired students to read through audio assistance. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a feature-rich application that goes beyond just being a plain eBook. The aim is to develop an app that is competitive with the best in the market,” he added. 

Speaking to ABP Live, Sanjay Kumar, Secretary, Department of School Education & Literacy (DOSE&L), emphasised e-Pustakalya’s focus on having an equitable reach for both males and females. On the current low reach of e-Pustakalya to the female audience, Sanjay highlighted it is because of low device availability among female readers. 

“The current male-to-female ratio of 39 to 61 exists because of the fact that you need a device to read it. This (data) is also suggesting that our girls don’t have equal access to devices. Since we know that the girls don’t quite have equal access to devices. Our endeavour would be to make it possible,” he said.

Sanjay Kumar mentioned the role of the “Content Enrichment Committee” in selecting books, expecting the availability of over 10,000 books in more than 100 languages within the next 2-3 years in e-Pustakalya under NBT’s governance.

Archana Sharma Awasthi underscored the inclusion of non-academic titles, and said over 1,000 books in 23 languages, including English, have already been added to the digital library.

From L to R: Yuvraj Malik (Director of the National Book Trust), K Sanjay Murthy (Secretary of Department of Higher Education), Sanjay Kumar (DOSE&L), Archana Sharma Awasthi (Joint Secretary)
From L to R: Yuvraj Malik (Director of the National Book Trust), K Sanjay Murthy (Secretary of Department of Higher Education), Sanjay Kumar (DOSE&L), Archana Sharma Awasthi (Joint Secretary)

Yuvraj Malik, Director of NBT, said the platform aims to serve as a national repository of Indian knowledge and languages with a global perspective. He said E-Pustakalaya will establish a sustainable model for procuring quality books through its content procurement committee.

In a conversation with ABP Live, Yuvraj Malik outlined the immediate plan for outreach especially since the focus of e-Pustakalya is on non-academic books.

“Outreach should not be a problem for two reasons. First, the platform is very user-friendly and can be downloaded on iOS, Windows, and computers, or accessed via the web, all for free. Second, it meets language needs by providing content in 23 languages. The platform offers content for all age groups across various genres and subjects. By providing the right content, we can cater to the appetite of young readers and promote reading effectively. Additionally, we have a vast ecosystem of schools, colleges, and universities, which will play an instrumental role in our outreach efforts. Therefore, outreach should not be a significant problem,” the NBT Director told ABP Live.

“Reading is something that should be initiated at an early age. We are targeting various age groups: 3-8, 11-14, and 14-18. Instead of focusing on one particular group, we are working on creating an entire ecosystem. If a child starts reading between the ages of three and eight, they are more likely to become regular readers. For those aged 11 to 14, they pick up reading habits gradually, and over time, they will become more integrated into a reading culture,” he said.

In addition to offering a vast selection of books, the Rashtriya e-Pustakalaya will feature a data dashboard to analyse and understand the reading habits of users. Sachin Kudturkar, technical head of NBT, emphasised the importance of analytics in enriching content for publishers.

“The data dashboard will be available to the Ministry and National Book Trust India, as well as to publishers, to help them understand reading behaviour,” Kudturkar told ABP Live.

“This data will allow us to see where the app is being used, which geographies it is penetrating, and the types of literature and genres being read. Our main objective is to use this application to create an enabling environment that encourages readers to start reading through this app,” he said.

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