Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Digital Library of India

Has anyone explored the Digital Library of India? I just discovered it tonight while browsing the "India" tags on del.icio.us.

They seem to have digitized quite a number of texts already, though I can't find an exact number on the site. The mission statement is ambitious -- bordering on over-the-top -- though the fact that Etexts at the DLI don't have unique URLs is deeply frustrating. Also (while I'm carping), the site's interface leaves much to be desired. Oh yeah, and the copyright policy is questionable: they will be scanning things printed up to 1990, and only remove them if a publisher or author pays a $200 fee.

But there are plenty of books there, and the fact that the project is state-funded might bode well for its future. In terms of books I've been discussing recently, I found Mother India as well as half a dozen Indian responses to it online -- including the response written by Dhan Gopal Mukherji, which Rani had mentioned (a nice find, as this is a book that might be rather difficult to track down in the U.S.). There is also a good selection of books by earlier Indian authors like Mulk Raj Anand, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Toru Dutt, Bankimchandra Chatterjee, and so on, as well as a pretty comprehensive array of writings by political figures. And I was pleasantly surprised to find Edward Thompson's biography of Tagore (another book that isn't so easy to find in the U.S.).

As importantly, they seem to have a strong interest in scanning and posting texts written in Indian languages -- though the dominant language on the site at present seems to be Telegu Telugu (for example, you can read Gora in Telugu, but not in Bangla!). I did notice a Hindi translation of Anand's Coolie, so maybe it's not true across the board. And there are poems of Ghalib's in Urdu... and quite a bit of Persian... Not a whole lot of consistency here.

I'm seriously considering writing them a letter explaining that they should rethink the architecture of the site to make it more usable -- starting with abolishing frames and instituting unique/linkable URLs. (Oh, and they should get rid of this archaic reliance on TIF graphics... use Unicode... or whatever imaging plugin Google Print is using...) If they do all those things, they are well on their way to building a world-class resource.

Incidentally, if anyone finds anything that seems particularly good while browsing the DLI site, I would love to hear about it in the comments below (or on your own blog, if you prefer).

UPDATE: A mirror of the Indian site can be found at Carnegie Mellon University. From my current location, it runs faster (and better) but has a smaller selection than the DLI in Hyderabad.

22 comments:

Pareshaan said...

Thank you so much for the link, though it seems that the site has some kind of a bug. I found it impossible to open any of the titles and read anything. Wonder, whether it is the site or it is my own incomptence?

Amardeep said...

No, it's not you, the site is poorly designed. (And actually your comment gives my letter to them more weight... it's not just me!)

And I should say that I'm not a much of a web tech person, so other folks could potentially give you better advice on how to access the site.

On my home computer, the image retrieval works fine in Firefox 1.5 -- my browser uses Quicktime to open the TIF files. (Have you upgraded your browser recently?)

But at my office it didn't work, so I installed an additional plugin recommended by the Digital Library of India, called "Alternatiff" (you'll see it referenced on the right sidebar at the DLI website). That seems to work.

There might be a setting in Firefox where you can tell it specifically to open TIF files using Quicktime. That might save you having to install a new plugin.

As for IE, I haven't tried it yet. Usually IE is pretty good with integrated plugins though.

Hope that helps.

Archana said...

That is so cool! I'm going to give the link to a friend of mine who is the E.D. of Muktabodha Indological Institute - they too maintain a digital library, but of scanned Sanskrit manuscripts (on a smaller scale than what you refer to). Interesting stuff for any Hinduism/classics scholars out there.

ana beynaam said...

is there more than one amardeep singh who's an english professor or are you the one who's coming to portland, oregon in two weeks (and one of my alma maters :))??!!i was so excited and kind of bummed at the same time 'cause i'm in portland right now, but will be leaving the week before you get here.

hope the sunshine is here upon your arrival. we're recovering from days and days of non-stop rain. bring your raingear, just in case. ;)

yeah i know this has no connection to the digital library which i haven't had a chance to check out yet, but i was just thrilled. .

Amardeep said...

Ana,

Yes, that's me-- I'm giving a public talk on The Kite Runner at Portland State University on Friday Feb. 23. I actually got the gig when a colleague saw my blog post from last year on the novel.

Thanks for the good weather wishes, and it's too bad you'll be out of town. Maybe next time!

Brunda K said...

The website needs serious work. Am unable to access any of the links from IE.

So Amardeep, did you post anything on Kite Runner. I was planning on purchasing a copy for myself. Do send your review..

Thanks
Brunda

Amardeep said...

In IE I got it to work after installing the Alternatiff plugin and then registering the plugin.

It's very invasive -- I hate having to install something just to use the site -- but for people who really want to use it, it can be made to work.

My short post on The Kite Runner is here. In the lecture I'm preparing there will be more emphasis on the Shahnama aspect of it, as well as a discussion of other books about Afghan authors and by Afghans themselves.

Chandra said...

That is a great find. The site is hosted by a technical university in Hyderabad - you would think they can design a better site. And probably why they have Telugu copy of Gora not Bangla!

Not to be a pain but, it is Telugu (not Telegu).

Amardeep said...

Crap, I always spell it wrong. (I was actually corrected on the spelling once before! You'd think I would have learned it)

I think I should tattoo the word "Telugu" to my nose, just so I don't forget it.

And yeah, not only do they need some web design help, they could probably use a few more humanities scholars on their board. I'm a little puzzled that you have all these computational astrophycist types editing etexts of Virginia Woolf novels ;-)

Srikanth said...

Have you checked the comments at this post on your blog?

Anonymous said...

Hi Amardeep,
Your essay on Betty Friedan got mentioned in Slate at http://www.slate.com/id/2135604/ . It's off topic, but I thought I should mention it. Thanks for the Digital Library link.

Amardeep said...

Anonymous, yes I saw it, thank you.

And Srikanth, somehow I missed your original comment. If I'd seen it I might have done this post a couple of months ago! The only new thing is today I found the Carnegie Mellon mirror, which works a bit better in the u.S.

JKM RAO said...

It is possible to download the individual tif files and from them one can create a pdf or a DjVu file that is easier to read. The Hyderabad site has lot of Telugu, English, Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindi and Marathi books. Some very rare literary books are available there. The Mellon site has not updated their collection for more than two years. The only awful thing is the spelling!

- J K Mohana Rao (jkmrao@yahoo.com)

Vamshi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vamshi said...

BTW on the DLI site, a GIF format is also supported.

While on the book reading interface, you can choose from among different formats ,TIFF, GIF, HTML, TXT (if available)

Madhavi said...

Digital library of India

Hi all - glad to see people excited about the DLI project.

The website has been updated somewhat recently, I am not sure if you got to the site after that. Pls check www.dli.ernet.in and send any feedback to feedback *** at *** dli dot ernet dot in.

For TIF images you need to install alternatiff plug-in (linked to from book reader interface).

Statistics link # of books available as of August 2006.

I used to work actively with DLI for a few years, but have moved away into a different project now so not quite up-to-date with the status.

We recently had a conference/workshop of the million book project and the statistics presented there of daily hits seemed quite good.

Madhavi

Ryan Johnston said...

Thanks for this excellent post.

I've added a link in the resource that I've been developing: The Professional Web Developer's Wiki http://www.ryanj.org/wiki

I'm slowly putting online all my links, tools and resources from over 10 years of online development including websites such as mbusa.com, rolex.com and dell.com

Thanks!

--ryanj

Shrikanth said...

I happened to find this "Digital Library of India" website looking for some Sanskrit scriptures.

To say the least I was disappointed by the effort in many ways technology , presentation, ease of use.

Many scriptures did not open up - error in the Apache server, some scanned badly, half the page was dull and faded. Search ?!

The effort seems to pride on the quantity than on content - we easily find attractive reports on the traffic, content by language etc., but the quality is missing.

I am done with this site.

Shrikanth

Anonymous said...

i think these people (IISC) are fit for nothing bcoz even after the improvement of technology they r least bothered to use them.just a pretty loss of money from the government for scanning such good books.i think it should have been handled by some private company.it wud b easier to download files in pdf format than some bloody ALTERNATIFF its cumbersome to view as well as u cant store them for offline viewing of the entire book.but i came to know that a person has written a script code for downloading entire text and also to convert them to pdf format.its really pathetic to know that government has again done some work which is a complete mess.i am fed up of this work since i am totally disappointed by their lunatic work
checkout this site and see how well they have scanned the books and most of them r in pdf format easily downloadable by download managers
site is :www.archive.org
enjoy those rare books and ofcourse curse our bloody government for doing a lunatic work

sharath said...

dear interested people
happy news for all people who r interested in downloading books from DLI with out much efforts.i will give a link where u can know how to download files from DLI and also convert them to pdf format for easy viewing.this is all efforts of a good human being such as vivek ji for his painstaking efforts in posting the tutorial for us.b grateful for the people like vivekji for the ultimate solution.
link is:www.esnips.com/user/vivekvshetty

steps to see video:
1)SCROLL DOWN A BIT AND CLICK ON PUBLIC FOLDER
2)U GET A LIST OF BOOKS AS WELL AS CLIP CALLED AS TUTORIAL CLICK ON IT
3)WATCH THE GUIDE
4)FOR COMPLETE VIEW RIGHT CLICK ON THE PLAYER AND SELECT ZOOM IN
5)U GET A FULL VIEW OF IT
6)FOR THE 1ST TUTORIAL E PASTES A LINK OF THE BOOK E WANTED TO DOWNLOAD THIS CAN B GOT BY
OPENING THE 1ST PAGE OF THE BOOK AND RIGHT CLICKING AND SELECTING COPY IMAGE LOCATION(FOR FIRE FOX USERS)
THEN FOLLOW THE STEPS AS SHOWN IN THE VIDEO B GRATEFUL TO THE PERSON BEHIND ALL THIS DONT FORGET TO THANK HIM

ABS said...

You can download a book in PDF from Digital Libray of India by simply providing its Barcode to @ABS DLI Downloader.Download link could be found here - http://alokshukla.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/where-knoledge-is-free-digital-library-of-india/

bhavan said...

A comprehensive software suite to get books at different speeds, from both IIIT and IISc, preview books, cache, resume broken downloads etc is DLI Downloader 0.2 from PR Labs, which is completely free. Check out www.dlidownloader.wordpress.com or download from www.sanskritdocuments.org/scannedbooks/dliddownloader or www.tinyurl.com/dlidsite1