The New Indian Express reports that in a terrific effort, more than 1000 school students and 234 members of the public across the state of Kerala digitized, proof-read and uploaded more than 150 rare and out-of-copyright Malayalam books as part of a digitization contest organized to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Wiki Source project by the Centre for Internet and Society, the state government run IT@School project, Swanthanthra Malayalam Computing and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi online library.
While these rare books were already in the public domain, the importance of preserving them in an accessible format cannot be emphasised enough. Books published as early as 1772 are now available on Wiki Grandhasala, the Malayalam wiki library to which these digitized copies have been uploaded. As they have been digitized rather than simply scanned, one can also search through them for keywords/phrases. If I’m not mistaken, OCR solutions for Indian languages either do not exist or are not of reliable quality. This would mean that much of the over 13,000 pages were typed out! I understand that these articles will also be used to cross reference wikipedia articles as well.
A big round of applause to all the involved parties for organizing and participating in this great effort at preserving as well as making accessible local literature and culture, that could otherwise be at a risk of getting lost amongst unhelpful copyright laws and/or tarnished or lost physical copies amongst other risks.
Can this effort be replicated in other states? I know the Panjab Digital Library is another resource that looks to do something similar. Their mission statement includes: to locate, digitize, preserve, collect and make accessible the accumulated wisdom of the Panjab region, without distinction as to script, language, religion, nationality, or other physical condition. There is also the Digital Library of India, hosted by IISC Bangalore, which states that they are trying to digitize all the significant works of mankind! If our readers know of other such databases, please do let us know in the comments.