ePUB-Hub – Committed to Offering Innovative Technology-Enabled Solutions For Digital Publishing

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Apurva Ashar, Executive Director, ePUB-Hub

Cygnet Infotech is committed to offering innovative technology-enabled solutions for digital publishing through its digital publishing division, ePUB-Hub.

ePUB-Hub a prominent 360-degree digital publishing Solution, has made its presence felt on a global scale a Digital Publishing Solution by Cygnet Infotech which was established in the year 2000. The company is based out of Ahmedabad, Gujarat with offices across countries such as USA, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Cygnet Infotech is committed to offering innovative technology-enabled solutions for digital publishing through its digital publishing division, ePUB-Hub.

BWDisrupt team member Sujata Sangwan Interacts with Apurva Ashar, Executive Director, ePUB-Hub, and spoke to him

Idea Generation

We had an extensive experience of typesetting and designing books of rich Indian literature with specialization in Gujarati literature for renowned publishers and authors. Fortunately, we had archived and preserved all the soft copies of the books we’d typeset using computer in the past. So, when we got our hands on the first Kindle Touch in 2012, we saw an opportunity which had inspired us to create Gujarati eBooks that are as easily readable as the English language eBooks on Kindle. But gradually we discovered that there were Indic language-specific errors and lack of basic functionalities. For example, Gujarati keyboard wasn’t available; the fonts were not readable and had a lot of errors with the Dictionary lookups also posing as a challenge.

We worked hard to overcome these problems and successfully created standard ePUBs in Gujarati Unicode fonts from the data we had preserved with the consent of the associated publishers. Our eBooks used specially created Gujarati Unicode fonts that exactly matched the look and the layout of the printed books. Since no other platform was available to distribute the eBooks in Indic languages securely, we went on to create www.e-shabda.com : an in-house platform bringing the Gujarati publishers and readers together.

Hence, in the first phase, we created standard eBooks, sold them from our web store and made them readable in third party reader apps, securing them with a robust Digital Rights Management solution powered by Adobe.

But, unfortunately, third party readers did not support Gujarati keyboard and integrated dictionary, which led us to build our very own reader app, specifically for Gujarati and Indian language eBooks.

And today, that leaves us with a treasure chest full of:

  1. Infrastructure and know-how to create from scratch or convert from existing computer data, what the world accepts as standard ePUBs. These are in standard Unicode fonts and are ready for use for the visually challenged community
  2. An e-store to market and distribute the contents
  3. An eBook reader app specifically designed for Indian language eBooks
  4. A secure digital rights management system to ensure the eBooks cannot be copied by illegal means and
  5. An enormous repository of eBooks of Gujarati and other Indian language literature

Description of the product

eShabda is a flagship implementation of ePUB-Hub – a Digital Publishing Solution by Cygnet Infotech which was established in the year 2000. Cygnet Infotech is committed to offering innovative technology-enabled solutions for digital publishing through its digital publishing division; ePUB-Hub. eShabda is an earnest effort to bring the benefits of digital publishing to Indian language publishers and authors. In a scenario where the global publishing industry is making profit out of e-publishing, authors and publishers of Gujarati and other regional languages do not have any way of reaching out to massive online.

Differentiation Factors

International, organized players like Amazon or Apple do not support Indian languages yet whereas smaller players don’t offer an exhaustive reader with intuitive features comparable to Kindle or Apple. But both these businesses, small and big, are dependent on others to generate content, to create eBooks in Indian languages. They are unable to utilize and convert already available data to standard eBooks and their content acquirement is either too slow or too expensive. eShabda already boasts of 1000 eBooks of hard-core Gujarati literature including patronage of many best-selling Gujarati authors and publishers. With a model like eShabda, ePUB-Hub offers end-to-end publishing solutions for Indian languages as well as English language starting from converting a conventional print book to the standard eBook format to distributing, marketing and securing it (using digital rights management system), they hold capabilities to cater to their clients in all the stages of a publishing cycle.

eShabda.com is an open platform where all associated publishers can sell books, and from where any reader can purchase books. The platform also offers free books, blogs and current events to attract larger readership along with enabling the authors and publishers to market and sell other related merchandise like printed books, CDs etc.

eShabda creates eBooks in ePUB format, using the internationally accepted standard UNICODE fonts to ensure that readers can read Indian language books on most e-readers, mobile phones and tablets. They are the only Kindle comparable platform for readers and authors& publishers alike for Indian Regional Languages.

Funding Status

The complete development is undertaken in-house and eShabda is created as a product by Cygnet Infotech Pvt. Ltd.

Monetization Model

The associated publishers are being charged for eBook creation/conversion. White-label of the eCommerce Web Portal for books and eBooks are also created for some publishers. Cygnet Infotech gives the technical know-how and the domain knowledge and works as “enabler to publishers” giving them IT based solutions.

Future model and Expansion Plans

Millions of Indians love reading and interacting in their mother tongue but owing to factors like diverse geographical locations, unavailability of books in their region or facing difficulty reading small prints – many readers are kept away from reading. eShabda’s target audience are these deprived readers and the goal is to brand eShabda as the de facto standard for reading in Gujarati. Once that is achieved, their goal is to market eShabda the platform to other small and medium publishers to enable them replicate such a platform for their publications.

With the success of eShabda, ePUB-Hub is on its way to be established as a “technology enabler” to the print publishing industry. The e-reading experience needs to be enhanced in order to deliver state-of-the-art features to the reader.

They plan to achieve this by:

  1. Creating visually enhanced eBooks
  2. Creating audio books
  3. Embedding audio visual contents in eBooks.
  4. Creating “talking books” by the use of TTS (Text to Speech) technology

Purchase of Gujarati eBooks by individual buyers is also picking up speed and people are getting used to the idea of reading an eBook. Distribution of bulk content (a complete repository of available eBooks) is being negotiated with other e-distributors, libraries worldwide.

Market Size and Opportunities

India is one of the biggest marketplaces with very rich literary content. There is no need to create new markets or products. It is merely converting the format of an existing product and offering it to the existing market.

By optimizing the format from physical entity to an electronic one, a lot of challenges like logistic, reaching out to far markets in rural India and the Indian readers residing in other countries can be addressed effortlessly.

Biggest learnings so far

eShabda has been in existence for more than 2 years now. With time, we have learnt and perfected the process of creation of eBooks in Indian languages. The most critical challenge and learning was realizing our vision of making our publishing process driven by “Inclusive Publishing” and making it real, whereby the process of creating a book and an eBook is handled in such a way that in a single effort the book is ready for the “print industry”, “eBook industry”, “web-based distribution” and most importantly, ready for the use of Visually challenged and the readers with print disabilities.

Additionally, visits and interactions as an exhibitor at The London Book Fair and The Frankfurt Book Fair has given us an insight into the existing trends in e-Publishing industry across the globe reaffirming that our idea is well accepted by our target audience.

Author: Sujata Sangwan
Twitter: @sangwan_sujata
Source: http://bwdisrupt.businessworld.in

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