BookHub.lk – Sri Lanka finally gets an ebook store

Bookhub.lk banner

Bookhub.lk was launched two days back, and Sri Lanka has finally got a proper ebook store. Proper I say because the project is backed by two giants: Etisalat from the mobile world and M.D.Gunasena from the book industry. There have been previous attempts like pothpath.lk (which isn’t a store after all), but Bookhub is fortunate enough to have the backing of good sponsors.

Even though initiated by Etisalat, the books aren’t restricted to its users. You have to visit the bookhub.lk website and register for an account to purchase books. You can either pay with your credit card or Etisalat credit. Then you open up the bookhub e-reader app (which is only available for android for the moment, but apparently a PC edition and an iOS edition are on the way), and download the purchased books to the device. And you’re good to go.

The downloaded ebooks reside in their own directories with separate files for content, styles, images and meta data. The content is in OPF files, so if you zip such a directory and rename it as an ePub you’ll be able to read the book with any e-reading app or device. This also means that there’s no DRM and you can share the books with anyone once downloaded.

And talking about the android app, it sucks (see footnote). The user interface isn’t friendly and the menu options don’t work. You have to enter login details every time to download the books (so please choose an easy-to-type password while registering). Text rendering isn’t perfect, but readable. When you touch the edge of the screen to flip through the pages, several pages turn instead of one. I emailed the developers yesterday about this but still they haven’t replied. Later I learned that I can properly flip the pages if I touch the screen very… gently and take the finger back asap. It’s like a beta app; or an alpha one rather.

Main interface

Main interface of the app

Downloading books

Purchased books can be downloaded in one tap

alice in wonderland

Alice in Wonderland. Text rendering isn't perfect but readable.

Aladin

Aladin. It's not just text.

Dhaaraa

Dhaaraa. The only book I'm going to read from the available ones.

The store only has about 25 books for the moment, some Sinhala ones and some English. There will be tamil ones in the future as well. As for the English ones, all the books currently available there are ones from the public domain. Pride and Prejudice costs 400 rupees, which is ridiculous. You can get it for free from Project Gutenberg.

Regardless of the shortcomings in the app and the current state of the book store, the project is likely to be a success. The Etisalat website reports,

The content will go beyond novels, potentially including any locally published material such as educational publications, magazines, children’s books, religious texts, business journals, etc. Going forward the parties involved also commented on the possibility of adding newspapers and school textbooks to the eBook store.

This is likely to fill a huge gap by making local books available for the digital media and and the userbase will most probably grow once the store is able to boast of a considerable amount of titles. I just hope the prices wouldn’t make it cheaper to buy the paperbacks.

P.S. I almost forgot the most important piece of information: all the books currently in the store are available for free for the week starting from Monday, 26th of March. So hurry up and grab if you’d like to give the service a try.

EDIT: Just hours after this blog post, the Bookhub.lk android app had been updated. Several issues have been fixed. It now remembers your login credentials. Page turning is less buggy now. There are still many lags and quirks, hope they’d get fixed soon as well.

8 responses on “BookHub.lk – Sri Lanka finally gets an ebook store

Leave a Reply