The naysayers of technology predict that our society will lose its culture, history and values to the overwhelming surge of rapidly developing technology. However, counter-intuitively, technology is actually helping preserve our cultural heritage and in fact aiding its proliferation. Artists are able to use technology to restore paintings lost to the ravages of time, engineers can digitally master and preserve old vinyl music records and libraries are digitising old manuscripts and books for posterity.
Bangladeshi application developers, MobioApp have developed a similar way to preserve Bangla literature by creating BoiPoka, a mobile app that offers readers access to the largest Bangla ebook marketplace in the world. BoiPoka (Bookworm) is a revamped version of the older Bangla Book House and offers readers an easy and interactive way to manipulate and read Bangla e-Books. Books can also be bought off the app from the in-app bookstore. The copyrights of publishers and writers of books hosted on the app are protected through its self-developed DRM (Digital Rights Management) program.
This Bangla e-reading app, which is available on Android and iOS, affords readers an experience almost similar to a Kindle. The collection of ebooks has been expanded and improved since its Bangla Book House days and has paid and free books from renowned authors like Humayun Ahmed, Zafar Iqbal, Anisul Haque, Mostaq Ahmed, Moshahida Sultana Ritu among others. Books are arranged in the style of a book-shelf. Readers can access them easily and have a richer interactive experience. The app also provides regular updates about new books added to the collection.
The electronic reading culture is growing in Bangladesh. Even as many are still reading hard copies of books the young are embracing applications that allow them to access their favourite books on their mobile devices and on the go. At a recent Amar Ekushey Boi Mela (Book Fair) hosted on the Bangla Academy premises, a Dhaka Tribune correspondent noticed that there were only 3 ebook stalls out of the 526 stalls at the fair. Despite this under-representation of ebooks at the book fair, the popularity of such applications is growing. Shamim Khan, a Dhaka University student who frequently reads e-books, told the correspondent, “It’s more useful when I’m on the bus or in transit. Since I have a number of books on my phone now, I can read them whenever I have some free time – regardless of where I am.”
BoiPoka was among the three ebook stalls at the Book Fair; Sheiboi.com and Chorui.com are the other two online bookstores which allow readers access to ebooks. All three are competing in the nascent ebook space. Ashikuzzaman, an attendant at the stall of e-book app Boipoka said,
These applications are gradually becoming famous among readers both home and abroad. We (BoiPoka) have an agreement with writers and publishers to offer e-books. Readers who download them can read at least 200 books – 40 of them for free.”
The other salient features of the Boipoka e-reading app include:
- Custom-book reader which can also read any PDF files on your device
- Purchase Premium popular authors.
- Text highlight, bookmark, annotation facility
- Font can be adjusted to suit reader’s needs.
- Easy search options to find the books.
- Go to the page of your choice ‘page jump’ options.
- Social media sharing
- Night Readings
The Bangla BoiPoka was awarded the mBillionth Award South Asia 2015 in the category of Entertainment, underscoring the impact it is making in using technology to provide widespread access to Bangladeshi literature via its app.