In a milestone event for Philippine publishing, Vibal Foundation, Inc. (VFI) and the De La Salle University Academic Publications Office (DLSU-APO) launched the first set of e-books published in the country yesterday at the main campus of De La Salle University in Manila.
The four e-books—Sanghiyang sa Mundo ng Internet (Reflections on the World of the Internet) by Rhoderick Nuncio; Filipino Religious Consciousness by Sylvia Palugod; Maharang, Mahamis na Literatura sa Tataramon ng Bikol (Spicy, Sweet Literature in the Bicol Language) by Paz Verdades M. Santos; and Mabathalang Pag-aaral (Religious Studies) by Jose M. de Mesa—are the first ever Filipino books to be published in digital e-book format (Mobi and ePub), making VFI the first Philippine publisher and La Salle the first Philippine university to have ventured into digital e-book publishing.
Faculty members and members of the DLSU-APO were present during the launch, which featured a demonstration by VFI staff of how the e-books can be read using Apple’s tablet computer iPad.
Sabrina Oliveros of Vee Press also gave a brief lecture on e-book publishing while author Rhoderick Nuncio explained the creative process behind his book, Sanghiyang sa Mundo ng Internet. Vee Press is the digital imprint of VFI. Its website contains information about VFI-published e-books, which will be made available for sale in the iBooks store and Amazon.com.
Digitizing Philippine culture
The project is part of VFI’s and DLSU APO’s mandates to preserve the Philippine intellectual and cultural heritage, and comes with the advent of e-book technology, and the recent release of e-book readers and tablet computers such as the Apple iPad and Kindle.
In the Philippines, the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle are readily available, and have been on sale since April 2010.
These four e-books are not the only Philippines-related ones that can be found online — a number of these can also be found through the effort of Project Gutenberg Philippines, which works closely with United States-based Project Gutenberg—a volunteer group that promotes the free download and distribution of non-copyrighted e-books.
This endeavor by VFI and DLSU-APO is unique because the four e-books, which are based on manuscripts written by the authors, have never been seen in print. The said e-books are copyrighted by VFI and DLSU-APO.
Small market, yet
However, critics of e-books, which include local-based bookstores, consider the small market of e-book readers in the Philippines, at least for this year, as a drawback for selling e-books in the Philippines.
“Local bookstores admittedly are not yet worried about e-book readers stealing their market. They still have some leeway due to the delay of the release of the books internationally and the books here. However, they’re not blind to the predicament of bookstores like [United States-based] Borders shutting down and they’re currently studying their options,” wrote blogger Joseph Nacino.
Nonetheless, the technology introduced in e-books became so popular in the cyberworld that it caught the attention of Philippine presidential candidate Richard Gordon, who promised to improve education in the country by replacing printed textbooks with e-books and distributing Kindle units in public schools.
The Academic Publications Office, which produced the e-book manuscripts, said it is working towards promoting cooperation between academic institutions and publishing firms, smoothing relations between them instead of encouraging competition.
“Gusto naming mapalawak ang literatura at mga pag-aaral na ginagawa ng Pamantasang De La Salle at mahalaga ang ganitong partnership sa Vibal Foundation dahil tangan nila ang access sa makabagong teknolohiya upang matupad ito. (We want to popularize literature and academic studies initiated by the De La Salle University and our partnership with Vibal Foundation is good because they bear the modern technology to fulfill this project),” said Dr. Isagani Cruz, director of the De La Salle Academic Publications Office.
Cruz added that such cooperation is in line with DLSU-APO’s goal “to move toward online publication of all trade books, textbooks, and journals” by 2011, DLSU’s centennial year.
For its part, VFI believes in the power of the Internet in promoting Philippine books and literature. “Academics have been publishing select papers and books on the Internet for free, but this is the first time that a university press has agreed to license their titles to another publisher for full-text viewing on the Web, relying on the vast distribution channel that the Web provides to propel the scholarship of its authors and its own brand presence,” VFI executive director Gaspar A. Vibal said in a statement read on his behalf by VFI’s Events Coordinator Karen Lucero.
Cruz meanwhile said that e-books can minimize paper consumption used in printed materials, thus making publishing more environment-friendly. He added that academic institutions must explore new technologies to make it easier to preserve and propagate Filipino culture, as the Internet can easily make such materials available globally.