Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Booksey! And ICDL*****

A currently continuing poll over at asks if you prefer to read fiction or non fiction books. So far, of the 2701 votes, 50% have gone to a bit of both, 26% to non fiction and 21% to fiction. Three percent have replied that they don't read at all. Two thousand is a very very small sample compared to the world's literate population. Even so, the tiny little percentage that says - honestly I think - that they don't read is interesting. Presumably these are people who have books available, or at least, can have books if they so wish - whether by begging, borrowing, buying or - no, not stealing :) So, not to read a book is then a conscious decision? What sort of world view does one need to have in order to find reading books superfluous? Or is it one of default, of the lack of motivation to overcome that inertia, or an honest lack of time from more pressing commitments like getting the daily bread? Who knows? But, looking around me, here, now, I see that this percentage has to be much much larger. Love of reading is a habit inculcated in childhood, and even then it needs to be nurtured. We all have our own obsessions - books happen to be mine, but that is my idiosyncrasy. Yours will be different. Even if you read voraciously as a child, once caught up in the daily grind of work-work-work, what would you take out time for? The garden, your music, your family, your growth, your religion, your stamps, your car, your - the list is endless. Where do books feature on your list?

International Children's Digital Library is an effort of the US based non profit organization ICDL foundation. Their mission, in their own words - "is to support the world's children in becoming effective members of the global community - who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children's books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children."

Currently they have more than 2600 books online available for free! We are not talking of simple text availability here like the Project Gutenberg (God bless Michael Hart), but of full colour pages of great quality from scanned books. These books include not just English but various other languages - you might get lucky and find one in yours as well. Some are bilingual and others are being translated into differenet languages already. If you go to 'read books', and click on 'find books', you will find that you can search books by language, by age group, the characters or type (fairy tales, imaginary creatures etc.), the nature (illustrated or not), whether award winning or recent, and by the length of the book. You could also search by country with a spinning globe. Or by author, title or keyword. In addition, there are also historical collections of books for children from 18th and 19th centuries. It really is like having a library at your finger tips!

The books open in an easy to operate reader, which can be made full page and the icons minimized if you so wish. [Some books, however, do require a different kind of reader or are flash based - you generally have a choice when you open these, and if you don't, its always easy to install the required program.] Pages can be turned by clicking on them, or using the arrow keys, and there is a pretty effective zoom available for reading text.

Here is an example of the zoomed text. Navigation is using your browser bars. In case zooming on each and every page is irritating - and it can become so - try projecting from your computer onto a wall or screen (if you have the equipment!). Some books have the option of pop up text or translucent text i.e. text which increases in size out of proportion to the page size, thus ensuring legibility without changing the background view. No matter what the drawbacks, no book lover can resist the lure....

The url -

P.S. If you are a book lover, and are fluent in two or more languages, do consider volunteering for them :)

One of the comments posted in the poll says, "I am sorry for those who don't read. What do they have for an escape?" This I found even more interesting. Are books, even serious non fiction books which apparently more people read (again an observation not supported by sale of books figures, and by looking all around me), an escape mechanism? That and that alone? I know that fiction does function as an escape mechanism for me sometimes. Change your reality for a while and when you return, you might have left your bad mood elsewhere. But a history book? Biographies? Travelogues? Current affairs? Essays on theosophy? Is it possible for even these to be an escape mechanism? Is the world of words an alternate world, no matter how accurate it be? I am positive that the answer is no, but I feel capriciously quizzical at the moment, disinclined to analyze and answer. I am content to lift up stones and stir up the insect world, to shake the raindrops off leaves, to jump from stone to stone, singing, for I am thinking about books....

P.P.S. So I have begun, finally, the series about books that I had been thinking of ever since Priya Kuriyan's comment. I don't know if I will continue serially or skip hop and jump but watch out - there are more to come!

1 comment:

Greg @ ICDL said...

Thanks for mentioning us. We have books available in around 48 languages.

Greg @ ICDL