How do we make materials available to all souls, rich and poor, who may be able to use them and transform themselves and thus the world?

On the one hand, we have seen spiritual publications, nicely printed and bound to last for centuries and more, but literally costing an arm and a leg so that the poor theosophist in the developing world cannot afford them.

There was no solution to this dilemma 10 - 20 years ago. But today we have one which is inexpensive and efficient - Internet and digital publications. Are theosophists going to sit quiet and ignore the today’s opportunities? If HPB was alive today, she will be shouting from the roof top to move things.

There are also other issues surrounding status quo. We have seen libraries going up in smoke with all valuable material. There are also the issue of long term preservation of books and publications. We have many out of print books - mostly due to low demand and high cost of printing with traditional methods.

Spiritual organizations are or should be in the business of broadcasting information so everyone can benefit from it. While we cannot stuff info down the throat, at least we can take the horse to the water. Today we can do it cheap and efficiently.

The current state of status quo is not acceptable. Look at the early issues of Theosophist which have been scanned and uploaded here. It is the result of a few dedicated and committed volunteers and was done in weeks, not in years and with no outside financial support from any organization. Modern scanners can do wonders.

The mind set of organizations is still stuck in old ways and hence seems ignorant of the unlimited possibilities that modern communication and digital technology opens up. How do we wake them up so that they take a pro active steps to make all info available in digital format.

My 0.02.

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Comment by Daniel Noga on April 10, 2011 at 7:12am

 

I second Anand's suggestion to form a group to work on this. If it happens, I would like to participate. I'm not a programmer but I do have experience with maintenance of databases.

I'm glad to see discussions like this taking place. I am very grateful for the digitization of theosophical material that has already taken place--from sites like the Canadian Theosophical Association's archives or Anand Gholap's sites, to other sites such as digimob:

http://digimob.forumotion.net/

Their idea is to use bittorrents for distribution. It's a fairly inexpensive choice when it's at its  best, since the bandwidth is largely distributed across peer-to-peer networks--this method of distribution also provides ways for interested parties to help the endeavor without need for any special equipment other than an internet-connected PC (one who wanted to be helpful could, for example, volunteer to download some files onto their PC and keep the torrent going so as to increase bandwidth for others). The downside to this method of distribution is that its reliability largely depends on such altruism. At the best of times it's grand, at the worst of times, people can wait days or weeks for a file to complete. Another downside is that not everyone wants to bother to learn to use BitTorrent, though it's not so difficult these days.

 

I'm not sure how careful digimob is about copyright laws either--but that has nothing to do with the technical aptitude of this method.

Even if the files are hosted on a central server and made available via direct download, perhaps this endeavor could take a few pages from digimob's playbook and run a bittorrent distribution in parallel with direct download? This could also make it much easier for self-starters who want to contribute documents to do so easily, by creating their own torrent files--anyone with the know-how to do this could upload the torrent all by themselves.

 

Comment by Capt. Anand Kumar on March 29, 2011 at 10:55pm

I have been assured by a group of young programmers that they will assist us in creating an application for management of daatbase as well as front end for uploading, downloading and searching of books in the database. We need to provide them with our requirements. Once our requirements are mapped, they will draw out the technical details first and then write the code accordingly.  

 

So, as a first step may I request MKR & Joe to create a group for handing this task. We may begin by seeking the opinion first and then deciding on the following:

1. Who can access this database? Is membership (of theosophy.net) a must?

2. What criteria does one use to decide which books can be included in the database?

3. What legal hurdles are anticipated and how to overcome them?

Once these questions are decided, we can begin working on the front-end design.

 

At the same time if we are hopeful that Adyar will consent to digitalization of her possessions then there is no point in duplicating of efforts. We may as well assist them.

  


Moderator
Comment by M K Ramadoss on March 28, 2011 at 1:28am

Thanks for your update.

 

I think the matter has to be taken up directly with Radha Burnier. It may even be necessary that a follow up personal meeting be arranged with a specific proposal identifying the type of materials to be digitized.

 

I am also posting your response to theos-talk which is regularly monitored by TS everywhere including Adyar and I hope it would give some impetus to the whole effort. Let us hope some good developments come out of all this.

Comment by Capt. Anand Kumar on March 28, 2011 at 12:34am

Thanks MK.

 

I had contacted Dr. N C Ramanujachary, currently Dircetor at Adyar and In Charge of the Library through my good friend Col. B K Kailash. His reply was that they are considering the request. And that was neraly two months ago.

Perhaps it is matter where a decision at the highest level is required and that is why the thought that someone close to the President should apprise her of the need and the benefits of digitalizing of the library. That should expedite the matters.

 

Meanwhile I am contacting some of my friends from the software sector to see if we can get the development of an appropriate application going. Once someone agrees, then we can set up a group to take this forward.


Moderator
Comment by M K Ramadoss on March 27, 2011 at 11:51pm

The points made by Anand is timely and important.

 

I do not know if anyone has contacted Radha Burnier directly with the proposal for digitization. If not, that would be the first step.

 

The need for doing a front end to search the materials is critical. This project is independent of building up digital documents.

 

As already mentioned, for preservation, digitization is the most cost effective and fool proof solution. I hope there are efforts to keep moving.

Comment by Capt. Anand Kumar on March 27, 2011 at 10:47pm

HPB's efforts to bring the secret knowledge out into open, no doubt inspired many and resulted in surfacing of Pranava Vada and the esoteric version of Bhagvad Gita by Sudh Dharma Mandala, as we have learnt in the Stanzas of Dzyan search. So, this effort is totally in line with the objects of the TS and should be pursued with vigour.

 

The TS libraries at Adyar and Varanasi contain many valuable treasures but our offer to digitize them has not made much headway. How can one approach the highest authority for this purpose? Particularly since many valuable works are in urgent need of preservation.

 

For the seekers, www.archive.org and The Digital Library of India at www.dli.ernet.in are truly valuable resources containing many difficult to find but alreday digitized works. It is quite difficult to download books from the Digital Library of India. It will take some knowledgeable enthusiast to go through the entire catalogue and identify the works to be downloaded. I will be happy to assist anyone to download from DLI.

 

As our own collection grows, we will need to catalogue, index and tag them. The search software at both the above sites are not really up to the mark. For example, if one types "Abhinav" it should return all the results containing these characters, but it does not. Whereas, if one typed "Abhinava", then the works of Abhinava Gupta will be returned. 

 

And, for the Creative Commons License, should we consider either adding a page at the beginning of the books or displaying the license before download with the "I Accept" button?

  

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