Google has turned on the charm at the book fair in Delhi. “Books are written to be discovered, and that’s the challenge we’re helping publishers solve with Google Book Search,” gushes Gautam Anand, strategic partner development manager, Google Inc; “it’s a great discovery tool.”
And, get this: Hindi books are to be digitised too, as part of Google’s brand mission to “organise all the world’s information and make it universally accessible”.
In this context, I have an earnest appeal to Google: Make all known Sanskrit literature available online.
There is an immense treasure trove of ancient wisdom available in Sanskrit covering almost all important topics of human interest including spirituality, health, fiction, poetry, mythology, astrology, statecraft, sexuality, etc. So far, this invaluable treasure has been accessible only to a very small minority of Indians and non-Indians. It would be of immense benefit to the whole world, if this could be digitized and made available online to anyone, anywhere with Internet access.
For a long time now, I have dreamt of an online Sanskrit repository with the following features:
- Digital copy of all available Sanskrit texts in the original Devanagari script.
- English translations of the Sanskrit texts by respected and authoritative scholars. Where possible, multiple translations by different scholars, multiple languages, word-for-word translations.
- A special “comment” section where users and readers can record their own interpretations and commentaries on specific portions of the above texts.
I lack the time and resources to make such a repository possible. However, this is something that Google can achieve quite easily. Google has the resources. Google has the reach. I request Google to help create a repository like the one I have described above.
An immense volume of ancient information is locked in old Sanskrit texts, many of which are in rare or unavailable print editions. There are countless people all over the world who are interested in this information, but it is not easily available to them. Printed copies of the books are only available from specialized publishing houses, in specific stores. The few online resources are very inadequate and unreliable. Some of these ancient texts are in danger of being lost forever because publishers are not reprinting them. Organizing and making this invaluable wisdom universally accessible would be a special jewel, shining in Google’s crown forever. If this is not done, Google would have missed an important step in its mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.
I am sending a copy of the above appeal to Google Books. If you, dear reader, see value in an online repository of Sanskrit texts like the one I have described above, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to refer to this blog post in your email so that Google knows we are talking about the same thing. Hopefully, we will see this become a reality soon.
Update on Feb 28th, 2006: After I emailed Google Books, I got an automated email acknowledgement immediately. The next day, I received the following email. The contents of the email are rather generic, even if it was sent by a human. Here it is for what it is worth:
From: Google Book Search Support (email@example.com)
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 3:11 PM
To: Right Indian
Subject: Re: [#47394347] An Appeal to Google Books for Sanskrit LiteratureHello,
Thank you for your email.
We appreciate your taking the time to offer us this feedback and encourage you to continue to let us know how we can improve Google Book Search. As this is still a young program, new features are under consideration and your feedback is very helpful.
The Google Book Search Team
To access the Google Books Partner Program home page or to log in to your account, please visit: https://books.google.com/partner
Original Message Follows:
From: Right Indian
Subject: An Appeal to Google Books for Sanskrit Literature
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 11:58:17 -0800 (PST)
I have an earnest appeal to Google Books: Make all known Sanskrit literature available online…