Contemporary writers N.Chokkan, Payon and Pa.Raghavan discover new readers who use smartphones and tablets to read their works

A group of contemporary Tamil writers is trying to break the shackles the local publishing industry has created with regard to electronic publishing.

They are releasing their works for free in smart device-friendly formats — ePUB and mobi — through the website — www.freetamilebooks.com.

Writers such as N. Chokkan, Payon and Pa. Raghavan have already released their works under the Creative Commons licence.

Though they have released them for free, they say they are encouraged by the response so far.

Chokkan, who released his ‘out of print’ biography on Oscar winner A.R. Rahman, coinciding with his birthday, says he is overwhelmed by the response.

“There were over 5,000 downloads in three days. The cover price of the print edition was Rs. 80. I have requested readers to pay as they wish. One reader paid Rs. 1,000 by electronic transfer,” he says.

Though the Tamil publishing industry is well established, barring a couple of big players, others have fought shy of releasing books in smart formats like ePUB and mobi that makes it easy to read on smart devices.

There are dual fears of piracy and digital sales of the books eating into the offline sales. The situation, however, has led to a dearth of Tamil literature online.

T. Shrinivasan, who coordinates the free Tamil e-books website, recently conducted a workshop at Tamil Virtual Academy to help authors publish in the formats themselves.

“There is hardly any contemporary Tamil literature available on the Web. Our initiative is to help create new avenues to help this,” he says.

New Horizon Media is one of the few publishers to have an app, NHM Reader, on leading mobile platforms. Badri Seshadri, managing director of NHM, says the future is in digital, inevitably. Options like self publishing and agent-backed publishing will co-exist.

Writer Raghavan is excited at the prospects digital publishing provides, and foresees a future where some writers will have a direct connection with readers through exclusive apps.

“No more middlemen. The readers will be able to interact directly with the authors and provide feedback,” he says.

Writer Payon (pseudonym) says a lot more needs to be done. In an email interview, he points out: “I’m sure we’ll see more sites like freetamilebooks.com. Using services like Instamojo, authors can directly sell their e-books online. I know some publishers have plans to make some or most of their books available as ebooks.”

More In: Chennai | Books | Authors | Society