The protocol for pedestrians and motorists to coexist was not apparent to me. Pedestrians seemed to cross the street with minimal regard for traffic; the cars unaccountably seemed to miss them at high speed. After a few days of watching this dance, I screwed up my courage and crossed in the wake of some elderly women in saris. By the weekend, I was crossing on my own; the key seemed to be steadiness- a sudden move could fool a three wheeled "auto" or motorcycle carrying a family of six into your path. Motorized vehicles in India always have to be on the lookout for the vegetable cart, cow, goat, dog or camel that might need to share the roadway.
this post); but this was the first time I've given it publicly; I'll be giving versions of the talk twice in February.
There were lots of questions and much discussion. There are so many differences between conditions in the US and in India regarding ebooks. Not only are adoption rates very different, but there are potential ebook applications in India that had never occurred to me.
hand-powered and solar-powered).
Public libraries in India are under-utilized compared to their counterparts in the west. One of the people attending my talk was Dr. M. S. Sridhar; he asked some very penetrating questions about the effects of ebooks on readership. He asked the audience to raise their hands if they were a member of a public library. Only a few hands went up. He later sent me a copy of a column he had written for the Deccan Herald (61 (24) 24 January 2008, DH Education, p II.)
During last four decades, the percentage of American population having public library cards has increased almost three fold from about 25 to 72. On the contrary, in a progressive state like Karnataka, after 40 years of enacting a comprehensive Public Libraries Act and establishing 5000 libraries, we have not been able to reach more than 2% of the population. A poor market penetration of public libraries over half a century of National Library Movement!If my thesis about the economic forces behind "why libraries exist" is really true, then book sharing mechanisms ought to arise in any free-market society. If so, then why is there so little utilization of public libraries in India? Is it the lack of a "reading habit"? Given the stories I heard about even poor domestic workers making great sacrifices to send their children to expensive schools that teach English; I have my doubts about this. Perhaps it's due to a widespread availability of inexpensive books; I didn't see that in the bookstores I visited. My guess is that informal book sharing mediated by family, clan, school and work relationships are filling the economic niche left by public libraries that fail to connect with their communities.
Having survived numerous street crossings and a 26-hour ocean and continent-crossing journey to get back home, I have a better appreciation of the many ways that societies will negotiate the print-to-digital book chasm.