Tanmay, a university student, loves to read books as well as travelling. Reading while travelling is the most pleasant way for him to spend his time. Be it at a beach or on the top of a hill, or a hotel room, he would love to read a book. But carrying a physical book is often not an option while travelling. E-book service came to his rescue.
Whether on the move or immobile, one can store hundreds of books on a single device or in an app. For all bookworms, this also takes away the hassle of going to a library and manually searching for books.
The cherry on top – it is significantly cheaper than paperbacks. These are the obvious reasons e-book is getting popular among the youngsters and adults, since the service caters to all age groups.
How happy are the readers with e-books?
Zannat Husna, a student of English literature at Rajshahi University, uses Kindle from 2017. She is positive on going tech-savvy on books. "Reading books on a device does not deprive me of the feeling of reading a printed book," says Husna.
In Bangladesh, besides Kindle by Amazon, EB Solution Limited's Boighor, Raven System's Limited's Shei Boi, Chorui.com's Boighor are providing the same service through different apps. That these organisations are creating virtual bookshelves consisting thousands of books, have brought relief to bookworms across the country.
About user-friendliness and cheaper rate of e-book services, Rajkumar Chakravarty, senior manager of EB Solutions Limited, says, "One can download maximum five books a day paying TK 1 or 2 only using our Boighor app. It holds more than 1000 books. One can easily download the app and paying through bKash they can use it on their android and IOS devices."
He adds they are working on making the service more accessible. "Currently around 20,000 subscribers read and download books using our app. We are working on our global version payment system to make it more accessible to the readers," he says.
Project Manager of Sheiboi, Md Shohidul Islam says, "Starting from 2015 we have been working on improving our service and collections for the benefit of readers, publishers and writers."
There's no subscription fee needed to read books from Sheiboi app. Once someone downloads the app, he can read books by paying through mobile balance using Robi or Airtel sim card and their visa or debit card.
"One can read 500 books without any cost here. To read more than 2500 books, he has to pay an amount between Tk 5 to Tk 50 for each book," says Shohidul.
With all the visible advantages of e-books, the question remains – are they taking a hold among the young generation?
The organisations currently offering the service are more concerned with popularising the product among young generation.
"We planned this service keeping the young generation in mind. Our subscribers seem to be satisfied with the service as it is easy to read through mobile app and not expensive at all," says Shohidul Islam from Raven Systems Limited's Sheiboi. While EB Solutions Limited is not so satisfied with the response they got from users.
Pirated copies of books easily available on the internet and in hard copies also, harms the e-book business a great deal.
"Where our book market is being harmed by piracy, e-book service providers are more aware about protecting the right of writers and publishers," said Mesbahuddin Ahmed, joint director, programme department of Bishwa Sahitya Kendro.
"One of our main concerns is inspiring our more than 4.5 million subscribers to read books legally as we strictly follow the copyright policy and discourage any kind of illegal exchange," says the manager of Sheiboi.
The question of proper execution of the copyright policy still remains. In the presence of thousands and more pirated copies of books on the internet, e-book service providers worry over maintaining the copyright policy.
But the writers are satisfied with the service of these institutions and according to them, the service providers maintain the royalty issue quiet responsibly.
Boighor holds the right to publish a good number of books of the prominent poet Nirmalendu Goon. This legendary poet says, "E-book service providing organisation maintains the royalty issue seriously. I don't think that copyright policy is violated by this kind of platforms.'
Anish Das Apu, renowned translator and writer, is also confident that copyright would be maintained. The platform Sheiboi has around 100 works by him. "Where copyright policy is greatly violated by the availability of pdf files on internet and publishers are not also in good terms with the writers regarding this issue, those who publish e-books deserve our applause. I, personally get the money according to the written agreement on a regular basis," says Anish Das Apu.
He also adds, "E-book isn't that popular in our country, so this businesses aren't earning that much profit, even though the payments are made to writers in line with the contracts.''
Among other reasons behind e-book is not getting popular among the users is that young people have a mixed reaction regarding this service. Those who use Kindle seem to be satisfied enough as they have got a specific device with the promised facilities. But the e-book providing apps in our country are yet to grab a strong grip over the market.
Using mobile devices or tablets which strain the eyes, and create pressure on our brain may be a reason for many people not using the apps.
Rayhan, a university student said, "I once tried to read books using my mobile device but couldn't continue for long as I am not used to reading books using devices, I would rather read a book holding it in my hand."
Salahuddin Biplob, publisher of Chalantika Boighor understand that to ensure the transition to digital reading "e-book platforms still need to do a lot of work to make more people switch to the new habit."
Under these circumstances some e-book service providing organisations are working on improving their service while some are walking backward, thinking of going slow with this new business. Most, however, are concerned about increasing the number of their books, but they are taking a leap of faith to believe in the future of digital reading.