I was in college when Google started the Google Books project. That was in
December 2007 (Courtesy, the first comment) December 2004. Google announced that it has started to scan and digitize the books in the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Oxford as well as The New York Public Library. A huge project at that time, it started debates on copyright protection to losing the “feel” of a real book to “do we need such information”.
The debate about copyright is an ongoing one. Google and Microsoft both are digitizing non-copyrighted material. Microsoft has plans to make available the content the copyright for which have expired already. Google has similar plans.
The “need for information” definitely is there. I can see it. I can feel it. Information, it seems, is never enough. I see more and more people consuming more and more information, although in different formats. The Internet is surely a strong medium there. A lot of people are consuming the information through blogs, RSS feeds, websites, forwarded articles, newsgroups, forum discussions and social networking websites.
Mobile phones are another channel of information consumption. The number of people that I know of who have subscribed to the Google New Alerts is in the teens. I can see people reading the news while in the buses, in local trains (Mumbai!), while commuting, having breakfast, and in the office when the boss is not looking.
All this form of information comes under Digital Publishing. And this is evolving into big business. And this further extends to devices like PDAs, E-book readers, portable media players and many such devices pushing the trend of “anywhere reading” higher up. And this is a $430 billion business, globally. That’s right.
The advantage of this content is many folds. For one, the newer generation that spends most of its living time online can only read the content online. They find it much more comfortable than opening a book for the same. Second, as the content can be viewed in parts, this format allows for the sampling of content before actually buying it and also buying only the part of the content that is of interest to a particular buyer.
The Chinese government has been quick and introduced around 165 million e-book readers to students, thereby saving lots of costs on paper books. Similar initiatives can be taken in India, especially with India keen on improving the life of rural India with the introduction of concepts such as E-Choupals and Common Service Centers (CSC). And within this is hidden a large business opportunity. More than one, actually.
One is definitely to have a common device for serving all this data. Something that can be equivalent of today’s E-book readers. Today’s mobile phones, although close, still are not made-for this function. So an innovation in the digital reading and publishing device will be a good boon to the industry. Another is a format to read all the information and pass it on seamlessly to other devices.
With international publishers like Oxford, Cambridge, Macmillan, Prentice Hall planning to get their books digitized, there lies another outsourcing opportunity for India.
It should be noted that Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo is actually a bid for a Media company. Yahoo with its hundreds of articles on tens of topics is, perhaps the most comprehensive content collection on the Internet. The advertising will be complementary to the content. The consumer, while consuming the content, will be driving the advertising revenues up. And this is what all the fight is about
The Digital Publishing surely has a bigger reach than anybody could have guessed five years back. And the biggies are already taking note of it.
Can India make big of this opportunity as it did with the BPO ?